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Mike Tomlin has to answer for Steelers' horrendous performance in loss to Patriots

The Pittsburgh Steelers don't fire head coaches. It's not their way. They haven't fired a coach since 1968.

Mike Tomlin maybe should be thankful for that.

Tomlin has had a great career but the last five days for the Steelers have been an absolute fiasco. Somehow, the Steelers lost home games to the Arizona Cardinals and New England Patriots. Those teams are 4-20 against the rest of the NFL and 2-0 against the Steelers over the past week.

The Steelers fell behind 21-3 in a listless first half. The Patriots are a bad football team and couldn't put the Steelers away, but Pittsburgh couldn't make it all the way back for a win.

The Patriots improved to 3-10 with a 21-18 win over the Steelers. Pittsburgh's offense was bad, as it has been most of the season. The defense pitched a second-half shutout, but giving up 21 first-half points to the Patriots was surprising. It spoke to how ill-prepared and flat the Steelers looked.

Before kickoff last Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers were 7-4. Everyone, including the Steelers themselves, seemed to realize they weren't exactly as good as that record. But they didn't seem to be a bad team.

The last two games exposed that maybe they are bad. Or at least strangely disinterested for a team in the playoff race. Tomlin gets a lot of praise, and rightfully so. With his team falling apart after a 7-4 start, he needs to get some blame too.

Steelers are sloppy from the start

One sequence summed up how sloppy the Steelers were. On a second-down early in the second quarter, with the Steelers trailing 14-3 and fans booing the offense and some chanting for backup quarterback Mason Rudolph, Pittsburgh sent Chukwuma Okorafor in the game as a sixth offensive lineman. Okorafor reported as eligible but he lined up wrong, not covering the tackle. That was an illegal formation penalty from a player who knew he'd be included in that specific personnel group. That's a direct reflection on the coaching staff not having anyone ready to play.

It was clear early on Pittsburgh wasn't locked in. The Steelers had just 36 yards in the first quarter. They gave up 115 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter to a team that had 257 yards and no points in an entire game against a had Los Angeles Chargers defense last week.

Then to start the second quarter, Trubisky threw an interception. He was hit as he threw on third down and it was an easy interception for Patriots safety Jabrill Peppers. The Patriots turned that into a touchdown to Hunter Henry and a 14-3 lead. A little later, Henry caught another touchdown and the Patriots led 21-3. The Patriots had scored 13 points in their previous three games combined.

Trubisky threw multiple passes that should have been intercepted, but one was nullified due to a penalty and others were dropped. There was nothing good about the Steelers for most of the night Thursday.

Tomlin said after the Cardinals loss that the Steelers played "JV football." That must have made Thursday night the freshman team, or maybe even Pop Warner.

Steelers have no answers

There was another telling moment late in the third quarter for the Steelers. They got one huge play, a deflected interception that was returned to the 16-yard line. That still meant the offense had to move it 16 yards. On third-and-nine, Trubisky scrambled. He was unlikely to get all the way to the first-down line, but he gave himself up before he was tackled and was two yards short. Not giving full effort for those yards is inexcusable for any quarterback in that situation. On fourth down Trubisky dumped it off under pressure and Jaylen Warren was short of the first down.

Throughout the game, the Steelers receivers were worth watching. George Pickens, who got heat earlier this season for not being too happy when his teammate Diontae Johnson scored a go-ahead touchdown and throwing a social media tantrum after the game, was spotted on the broadcast and called out by announcer Kirk Herbstreit for giving no effort blocking on run plays. Johnson, who got heat for giving no effort blocking on run plays earlier this season, showed his frustration at times. So did Pickens, particularly when he wasn't targeted on a fourth down.

Because the Patriots are a team that has earned its 10 losses, the Steelers stayed in the game. A blocked punt led to a quarterback sneak touchdown from Trubisky, and the two-point conversion cut the Patriots' lead to 21-18 early in the fourth quarter.

It didn't matter. The Steelers offense couldn't get into Patriots territory on their two possessions after that. There was a questionable false start penalty on a Steelers punt that probably should have been called offsides on the Patriots. But it was called on the Steelers and they punted. Then on fourth-and-two just before the two-minute warning, Trubisky inexplicably tried a low-percentage deep pass to Diontae Johnson that was incomplete. That effectively ended the game.

The Steelers were in the playoff bracket as Week 14 started, but acted and played like it couldn't wait for the offseason to get here already. That offseason might end up getting here quicker than anyone in Pittsburgh anticipated a week ago. That won't look good on the head coach.