So where do the Steelers go from here?
Coach Mike Tomlin has suggested changes are in the offing, but on a 53-man NFL roster, the sweeping changes suggested by the 55-31 humiliation dished out yesterday by the New England Patriots are not accomplished easily.
Concerning the team’s effort, Tomlin said, ''Not good enough. Just wasn't. We're going to comb through this with a fine-toothed comb, as we should. And those people that were lacking effort won't be playing. It's just that simple.”
That might indicate a massive overhaul, but again, that’s not easily done.
Many of the players who are not regulars are journeymen who fill out the roster. They are backups and play on special teams. Will Allen and Felix Jones would be examples of that. There’s little to be gained by inserting such players into starting roles.
Even with the obvious choices, such as 2013 No. 1 draft choice Jarvis Jones, it’s not that easy. If Jones wasn't on the field yesterday for what the coaching staff considered a critical game, there’s a good reason for that.
If the coaches feel he’s not good enough yet, it might be counterproductive to throw him out there when he’s not ready. And the key word in the previous sentence is "might." If he is not being diligent in his preparation, then it would be counterproductive to his development to allow that to slide.
There’s little or no tinkering to be done with the offense. It scored 31 points yesterday. The quarterback, running back and wide receivers are not going to be changed. If Markus Wheaton ever gets healthy, but all means, attempt to get him some playing time. Any playing time he or Derek Moye might receive would come at the expense of Jerricho Cotchery, who was outstanding yesterday, or Emmanuel Sanders, who will be a free agent at the end of the season.
There’s not much that can be done with the offensive line that already hasn't been tried.
Defense is another matter.
The secondary is a good starting point. It has been bad. It is 19th in passing-rating against and 17th in yards/attempt-against. In those categories last year, it was eighth and first.
Starting safeties Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark appear to have slowed considerably. Worse, it looks like cornerback Ike Taylor, once the most dependable of players, also has lost the elite speed necessary to play his position.
Polamalu is 32, Taylor 33 and Clark 34. Polamalu and Taylor are in their 11th season, Clark is in his 12th. All three are old by the standard for NFL defensive backs and their decline should not be astonishing to anyone.
There are options here. Rookie Shamarko Thomas has not played particularly well but with two veterans in front of him, clearly, his time has come. In other areas, it’s not so easy. Cortez Allen was expected to be a big contributor this season but lost his job to William Gay. Curtis Brown, a third-round draft choice in his third season, has been a major disappointment.
There’s not a lot that can be done that hasn't been tried with the defensive line and linebackers.
''You re-evaluate everything," Tomlin said. "You have to after a performance like that and we will. It doesn't necessarily mean we will change or change for the sake of changing, but we will look at every aspect of what we are doing and who we are doing it with because we can't have performances like that."