"We are a frustrated group right now," Mike Tomlin said to open his postgame comments after a 20-10 loss in Cincinnati Monday night dropped the Steelers to 0-2. "I just told the group that is a natural response."
Could that frustration be bubbling over already? It sure sounds like it, in light of a report by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette that receiver Antonio Brown and offensive coordinator Todd Haley had at it on the sideline during that defeat.
Brown "angrily complained to the coach that not enough pass plays were called for him," per the report, and the two were "still seething about it Tuesday."
Brown, the Steelers' No. 1 receiver after Mike Wallace left in the offseason, caught six passes against the Bengals and was targeted nine times. Both of those numbers were team-highs for the game (Jerricho Cotchery also had nine targets). It was Emmanuel Sanders who received the bulk of Ben Roethlisberger's attention in Week 1, with 12 targets to six for Brown.
Roethlisberger threw for 251 yards Monday, though he was just 20-of-37. The Bengals generated rather consistent pressure on the Steelers' QB, too, coming up with a pair of sacks in the game. Only one of those Roethlisberger completions came on a ball thrown 20 yards or farther downfield -- a 31-yarder to Cotchery. Roethlisberger twice looked for Brown downfield, with both attempts resulting in incompletions.
Through their disappointing 0-2 start, the Steelers have mustered only 19 points (the third-lowest total in the league). Neither the run game nor the passing attack have been very effective, with the offense generating a mere 194 yards in a Week 1 loss to Tennessee.
This is Haley's second season calling plays for the Steelers. Year 1 produced mixed results, at best, as Pittsburgh finished 8-8 and muddled to a No. 22 ranking in points scored. Brown did lead the Steelers' receivers in catches during 2012, with his 66 falling five shy of TE Heath Miller for most on the roster. Pittsburgh hosts Chicago on Sunday night, in what could be a must-win game early in the season. Getting Brown a few extra touches might not be the worst idea, either. As Tomlin pointed out, this is a frustrated team -- one that hardly needs added tension brewing between the coaching staff and players.