On second thought, Mike Tomlin did not think there was a lack of effort by his players Sunday in New England and, to a point, saw some good things come out of a record, 55-31 loss to the Patriots.
If the coach was again trying to send messages to his players through his news conference, then some of it sounded like a pep talk for a team reeling with a 2-6 record. That is Tomlin’s worst record at the halfway point as a head coach.
After Sunday’s game in Foxborough, Mass., in which the Steelers allowed more points than in any game in franchise history, Tomlin remarked that the effort was not good enough and those players who lacked it would not play.
Tuesday, he said he had jumped to conclusions and that he did not see a lack of effort.
“No, I didn’t, and, really, I think that’s your knee-jerk response after a performance like that, when you’re defeated in that manner, is to look first at those things,” Tomlin said. “There wasn’t any blatant disregard or blatant breaches of effort and hustle on the tape. What was on the tape was that we were soundly beaten in that game.”
Safeties Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark each took blame for their defensive display against New England. When Tomlin was asked if they could still get it done, he replied, “Certainly.’’
“I believe that and I’m sure that they believe that as well. That was a substandard performance and I appreciate their willingness to accept responsibility for it. I share that, but at the same time, I’ve got a great deal of confidence in them and their abilities to play and play winning football for us.”
Tomlin preferred to point out some exceptional plays made by the Patriots rather than failings by his defense.
“There were some tight coverages on some of those plays, to be quite honest with you. I thought the back-shoulder fade touchdown was a great throw and catch. I thought a couple of the throws and catches, obviously, to [Rob Gronkowski] were exceptional. That’s to be expected when you’re playing a quality group like the group we played last week.”
Over to the run defense, which ranks 31st in the 32-team NFL, Tomlin said he finds no recurring issues.
“No, I wouldn’t characterize it as chronic problems. If that were the case, I think you would identify it and quickly make necessary changes. But there have been, popcorn if you will, a variety of things that create the end result.”
While his defensive backs could be seen losing ground to Patriots wide receivers as they tried to chase them all over the field, Tomlin said speed is not a problem for his defense.
“No, it’s not a concern and if it were, there wouldn’t be much I could do about it anyway. We’ve got to be on the screws, obviously, we’ve got to be in the right places. We’ve got to use proper technique to maximize that position. It’s fundamental. We could be better, but also I don’t want to stop short of complimenting those guys and the nature in which they played and performed on Sunday. I think that would be inappropriate not to continually mention that.”
Neither will he reign in Troy Polamalu from playing the kind of freelance defense that has been a hallmark of his success, albeit not so much this season.
“No. Troy is a versatile guy, he has a unique skill set. We need that skill set to do a variety of things for us. Obviously, he didn’t play as well as he would’ve liked or we would’ve liked in the last football game. We’re not going to have a knee-jerk reaction to that performance.
“He’ll continue to play safety for us, he’ll continue to play linebacker for us, he’ll continue play deep, he’ll continue to play in the box, he’ll continue to cover in zones and man and blitz as well. He’s done that for us in this league for a long time. We look forward to him to continue to do it. But more importantly, and probably more appropriately, we look forward to him doing it this week.”
Tomlin was asked how involved he is in the draft process and how much accountability he has for those picks.
“I take responsibility for the players we have drafted since I’ve been here,” Tomlin answered. “Not only in recent drafts, but since I’ve been here. Because it’s the truth.”
Pressed on whether he has equal say as general manager Kevin Colbert, Tomlin answered, “I take responsibility for the players that we’ve drafted since I’ve been here.”
Don’t give up the apartment
The Steelers signed cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke, whom they waived/injured Aug. 25. To make room on their 53-man roster, they released cornerback Isaiah Green, who would be advised not to give up his apartment yet in Pittsburgh.
This is the third time Green has been released by the Steelers since he made the original 53-man team on the final cutdown. In all, Green has been involved in six transactions starting with his release Sept. 2. Since then, he was signed to the practice squad (9/2), signed to the 53 (9/17), released (10/2), signed to the 53 (10/15) and released Tuesday.
Not counting practice squad transactions, the Steelers have made 24 roster moves since after their first regular-season game. They have made 32 after their first cut down to their 53-man roster Aug. 31.
“We’re not opposed to turning over any stone to change the end result,” Tomlin said.
Ed Bouchette: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @EdBouchette.