The emotion that had been present during Mike Tomlin's Week 3 postgame press conference was replaced Sunday by a coach who seemed more resigned to the current state of his team. The Steelers' coach eschewed emotion in favor of matter-of-fact reasons why his team is 1-3 following a 27-17 loss to the Packers.
It was a total team loss, but the onus was once again on an offense that gained just 62 rushing yards and saw Ben Roethlisberger commit two turnovers. Roethlisberger missed JuJu Smith-Schuster on two plays that would have been touchdowns.
"Just detail. Execution. And I don't say that tongue in cheek," Tomlin said of his offense's lack of production, via Steelers.com's Bob Labriola. "We need more detail in our work, and we need better understanding. We need to play faster. Those will produce the chunks that you mentioned. We're close. We had some opportunities today; we just didn't hit enough of them.
"We've got to have those plays, particularly when we're not playing as well as we'd like. Chunks eliminate a lot of execution, as we say in the coaching business. And by that, I mean, if you're not playing clean, splash plays or chunks of real estate aid you. And so, we're not playing clean enough and we're not getting enough chunks to offset it and that's why we're having the conversation we're having."
Let's take a look at which Steelers players saw their stock go up or down following Sunday's loss. Pittsburgh will look to get back on track Sunday at home against the Broncos.
Johnson reprised his role as the Steelers' top receiver after missing last week's game with a knee injury. The three-year veteran caught a game high nine passes for 92 yards that included his 45-yard touchdown on the game's opening drive. In his last two games, Johnson has 18 receptions for 197 yards.
QB Ben Roethlisberger
Roethlisberger's misfires are a major issue. In Pittsburgh's Week 3 loss to Cincinnati, his overthrew to James Washington on a deep pass that would have made it a one-possession game. In Sunday's loss to the Packers, he had two passes evade that grasp of Smith-Schuster. Roethlisberger also misfired on several other throws that contributed to the Steelers' offense going just 4 of 11 on third down and 0 of 2 on fourth down.
It's not all Roethlisberger, as there appears to be a miscommunication between the quarterback and his receivers. Roethlisberger doesn't have the most faith in his young offensive line, something his subtly alluded to during his post game presser.
"Probably throwing the ball faster than I want to at times," Roethlisberger said, "but at the end of the day, you have to make better throws."
Along with his misfires, Roethlisberger eschewed easy completions for lower-percentage passes; it appears that he doesn't see his open targets, a sign of his lack of experience with Matt Canada's offense. His lack of mobility has become abundantly clear. Defenses can rush him without any reservations. If Roethlisberger and the offense's struggles contribute over the next two weeks, a switch to Mason Rudolph may have to be considered as Pittsburgh heads into their Week 7 bye.
RB Najee Harris
Harris continues to churn out productive afternoons. He had his best game on the ground on Sunday, rushing for 62 yards on 15 carries that included his first rushing touchdown. He also caught 6 of 9 targets for 29 yards. Through four games, Harris has tallied 363 total yards and two touchdowns on 81 touches. He's on pace to obliterate Le'Veon Bell's franchise rookie record for total yards from scrimmage.
Edmunds was on the trailing end of two big third down completions to Randall Cobb, who was a constant thorn in Pittsburgh's side on third down. The first completion was a 23-yard score that gave the Packers a 14-7 lead. The second was a 25-completion to Cobb that helped stretch the Packers' lead to 20-7 six minutes into the third quarter.
CB Cam Sutton
Sutton showed why the Steelers had faith in him replacing Steven Nelson as the starter opposite Joe Haden. Sutton played an integral role in helping hold All-Pro receiver Davante Adams to 64 yards on six receptions.
Starters Joe Schobert and Devin Bush struggled to help contain Packers running backs AJ Dillon and Aaron Jones, as the duo combined to run for 129 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries. Bush was in no position to tackle Dillon on his 25-yard run that set up the Packers' game-clinching score.
WR James Washington
The soon-to-be agent made the most of his elevated playing time against the Packers. Playing in place of injured teammate Chase Claypool, Washington caught four of his five targets for 69 yards. His 30-yard reception in the second half was Pittsburgh's second-longest play of the afternoon.
As alluded to above, Smith-Schuster and Roethlisberger came up just short on what would have been two big completions on Sunday. That being said, Smith-Schuster has failed to produce many big plays through four games. The former Pro Bowler has just 15 receptions on 27 targets for 129 yards through four games. Smith-Schuster remains in search of his first touchdown of the 2021 season.
He wasn't perfect, but Pittsburgh's All-Pro safety recorded a team-high eight tackles. He also showed his big-play ability by returning his own blocked field goal for a touchdown. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, Fitzpatrick's big play was called back after Joe Haden was deemed offsides.
OC Matt Canada
Pittsburgh's first-year offensive coordinator was promoted partly to help improve what was the league's 32nd-ranked rushing attack in 2020. Through four games, Pittsburgh's running game continues to be the NFL's worst. A young offensive line is part of the issue, but Canada also deserves criticism after calling just 16 running plays against the Packers. The Steelers have averaged less than 17 rushing attempts through four games, with Harris receiving over 83% of Pittsburgh's carries. Canada and the Steelers need to commit more to their running game. They should also consider utilizing the two other running backs on their 53-man roster.