Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Steelers coach blames loss on former Patriots pro bowler

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Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is a straight shooter. Given his consistent candor, it’s no surprise to hear Tomlin share what it’s like when asked about the key glitches in his team’s Week 2 loss to the New England Patriots.

In an alleged revenge game for former Patriots Pro Bowl returnee Gunner Olszewski, veteran WR dropped a punt at a pivotal moment that Tomlin believes cost his team the game.

Steelers depot captured this quote from Tomlin on Olszewski’s muted punt:

Tomlin also called the late first-half result, the TD pass to Nelson Agholor, a “significant play”, but it seemed like the punt was the primary focus as he searched for the reason for his team’s defeat.

Olszewski’s slip happened at 3:58 in the third quarter. The Steelers had forced the Patriots to sting. Olszewski tried and returned the field with the punt at his 20-yard line, even though Pittsburgh didn’t have 11 players.

The punt ricocheted off Olszewski’s face mask, and the fumble was quickly recovered by Patriots rookie special team ace Brendan Schooler. Unfortunately for the Steelers, no one was destined to block Schooler, so he managed to regain the fumble in position because he was unhindered throughout the game.

Here’s a look at it for those who haven’t seen the play:

The Patriots put together a short three-game drive to score a TD and extend their lead to 17-6 in what proved to be a dagger.

As expected, Olszewski took full responsibility for his mistake. “I just dropped it,” Olszewski said after the game. “It’s on me. Play so tight, there shouldn’t be any mistakes like that.”

He’s right. I’m not sure the Steelers’ Mitchell Trubisky-led offense would have been able to put together an 80-yard TD drive even if Olszewski had done what he was supposed to and called for a fair catch. Still, as a returnee, you want to give your team a chance to win.

Olszewski’s mistake took the most realistic route to victory off the board. To Olszewski’s credit, he influenced the Steelers’ next ball possession in the running game. Olszewski reeled off an 18-yard streak that he finished in his signature hard-nosed style at the 2:18 mark of the third period.

The Steelers scored a TD and a 2-point conversion en route to the tie at the final score of 17-14.

New England didn’t bring in a punt or break, but they were efficient, and perhaps most importantly, none of the return men turned the ball over. The best performance of the day for the Patriots came from third-year safety Kyle Dugger.

Before he was eliminated with an injury, Dugger reeled off a 37-yard kickoff return that makes you wonder if the Patriots will try to fit him into that role more often. Myles Bryant had three punt returns for an average of 7.3 yards, and rookie RB Pierre Strong Jr. had two kickoffs for 48 total yards.

While Dugger and Bryant have shown some potential, the Patriots’ long-term solution in the second leg appears to be rookie DB, Marcus Jones. He has the most explosive skills, but we’ll see which direction the Patriots will take for their returns.

While Dugger and Bryant have shown some potential, the Patriots’ long-term solution in the second leg appears to be rookie DB, Marcus Jones. He has the most explosive skills, but we’ll see which direction the Patriots will take for their returns.



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