Mike Tomlin brushed off any notion that the Pittsburgh Steelers may have taken the Arizona Cardinals lightly prior to Sunday's 24-10 loss. Pittsburgh running back Jaylen Warren, however, feels that it may have been a contributing factor in the Steelers losing to a team that had won just two games prior to Sunday.
"I guess just taking them lightly," Warren said afterwards, via Steelers Now. "Lighter than we should have."
Does Warren think the Steelers possibly taking the Cardinals lightly contributed to the team's preparation beforehand and, ultimately, the lack of execution that took place during Sunday's game?
"Yeah, could be," Warren replied.
Warren said that acknowledging "what it was" is how the Steelers can address the issue going forward. Pittsburgh has a short week before it hosts a Patriots team that fell to 2-10 following Sunday's 6-0 loss to the Chargers.
"Obviously, I'm assuming no one likes this feeling after a loss like that (and) a team like that," he said. "We've just got to get on the same page and get to work."
Sunday's game was in some ways a microcosm of the Steelers' season to this point, with big wins typically followed by gut-wrenching losses. Pittsburgh, after dropping a 13-10 game in Cleveland in Week 11, responded by defeating the Bengals last Sunday in a game that saw the offense compile over 400 yards for the first time since the 2020 season.
Instead of building on last week's success, though, the Steelers took a step in the wrong direction. Pittsburgh was out-played in all three phases on Sunday while falling to an Arizona team that had not won a game on the road since Week 10 of last season. In the process, Pittsburgh fell to 7-5 and missed a golden opportunity to improve its place in the AFC playoff race.
Sunday's loss begs the question of whether or not the Steelers struggle with handling success.
"Probably," Warren said when asked that very question. "Let the highs get too high."
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Talent-wise, this is the Steelers' best team since the 2020 squad that started 11-0 before three games in 12 days ultimately did them in. And while one could point to injuries or the offense's struggles, the biggest thing holding the Steelers back might be maturity, or lack thereof. There's been several noteworthy incidents this season including wideouts Diontae Johnson and George Pickens, for example.
Pickens infamously scrubbed the Steelers from his social media page while posting "Free me" after two underperforming statistical games. Johnson didn't try on a running play last week, got into a shouting match in the locker room with Minkah Fitzpatrick after the loss to Cleveland and did an over-the-top touchdown celebration Sunday with Pittsburgh trailing by two touchdowns.
The Steelers have leaders in Fitzpatrick, T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward, Najee Harris, etc. Warren could also be considered a leader given his recent play and willingness to speak openly about the state of the team after every game, regardless of the outcome. But it appears that not enough players are following their leads, and the result is a mediocre record in what seems destined to ultimately be a forgettable season.