FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Mike Tomlin threatened more jobs, said he was angry, said he was as disappointed as ever. What he did not say was the obvious, that there really may not be anything he can do because the Steelers free fall looks irreversible.
Never in the history of the franchise's 80½ seasons was there a loss like the one Tom Brady and the New England Patriots dropped on the Steelers Sunday at Gillette Stadium, 55-31. Those are the most points scored against them and the most yards -- 610 -- they allowed in team history.
It put an exclamation point on their 2-6 record through the first half of the season and sets up the second half as more of a reclamation project.
Steelers Report: Patriots 55, Steelers 31
Steelers beat writers Ed Bouchette and Gerry Dulac talk about the Steelers 55-31 loss to the New England Patriots. (Video by Peter Diana; 11/3/2013)
"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."
If there ever was any doubt, the Steelers defense hit rock bottom in what has shaped up as a rock-bottom year for all of them.
"We didn't play very well from the first snap to the last," a somber Troy Polamalu said. "It's very disappointing."
Brady, struggling through the first half of the season, burned them for 432 yards and four touchdowns. The Patriots (7-2) produced a 115-yard rusher in Stevan Ridley, who ran for two touchdowns, and three 100-yard receivers -- Rob Gronkowski (9 catches for 143 yards and a touchdown), Aaron Dobson (5-130 and two touchdowns) and Danny Amendola (4-122 and one touchdown).
"We couldn't stop them," Tomlin said. "We didn't stop the run. We didn't stop the pass."
Nor did they stop a long Patriots punt return that began a 28-7 fourth-quarter run. The 43-yard return by Julian Edelman signaled the beginning of the end.
Yes, the score once was tied late in the third quarter after quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw two of his four touchdown passes, both to Jerricho Cotchery (who caught three touchdowns), to erase a 14-point New England halftime lead and add some life to the Steelers sideline at 24-24.
The Patriots responded by outscoring them 31-7 the rest of the way, like a Ferrari toying with a Volkswagen. First came a seemingly harmless 32-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski that snapped that tie and put the Patriots back on top by three as they entered the fourth quarter.
Before they could, however, Edelman ran a punt back to the Steelers 34. Brady capitalized with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Dobson early in the fourth quarter and the rout was on.
That brought Tomlin to the podium in a foul mood and for the second time in five games, he threatened the loss of jobs.
"Those people who are lacking effort won't be playing," Tomlin said. "It's just that simple. ... I am angry, disappointed."
The tape they watch today will show what everyone else already knows, that their defense just isn't the same one even from 2012 when it led the NFL in fewest total yards and passing yards allowed, as it did also in 2011. They have lost players, lost their bite and now they are losing in record manner.
Brett Keisel sounded in shock at the 31 points the Patriots rang up in the final 17½ minutes.
"It was something that in my 12 years has never happened here," Keisel said. "I wish I could say what happened or what was the problem. We just got out butts kicked. ... Usually, for a long time here, we've been tough because we've played great defense. We need to get back to that."
The way it looks, it may take years rather than any time over the course of the second half of this season.
"I'm not ready to characterize the season," Tomlin said. "But [Sunday night], obviously we were out of place [and] they executed well. That combination was lethal."
Cornerback William Gay admitted that the records put up against them were embarrassing.
"Definitely, that's never happened," Gay said. "That's never how you want to represent the Steel City, so we're going to get back in the film room tomorrow and correct this."
They will find that Brady plays the part of Freddy Krueger. The Patriots were said to be vulnerable coming into the game, what with Brady and a possible sore hand limiting him to his worst passer rating (74.9) since he became a starter in his second season in 2001. He had just nine touchdown passes through eight games, or five more than he threw Sunday against the Steelers. He more than doubled his first-half rating for one game, a near-perfect 151.8.
Roethlisberger nearly matched Brady's 432 yards passing with 400. Unlike Brady, Roethlisberger threw interceptions, two of them. He was sacked five times. And while Le'Veon Bell had his moments and finished with 74 yards rushing on 16 carries, the Patriots outpaced the Steelers on the ground, 197 to 108.
But, yes, the score once was tied, 24-24, late in the third quarter.
"We were doing some good things," Roethlisberger said of his offense at that point. "Everyone was fighting."
At least those on offense were.
Ed Bouchette: email@example.com and Twitter @EdBouchette.
First Published November 3, 2013 5:13 PM