Mistakes pile up as Steelers fall to 1-1
PITTSBURGH (AP) Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin believes his team's biggest problems are ''self-inflicted.''
Too many penalties. Too many turnovers. Not enough explosive plays.
Good thing the Steelers will have some extra time to work on their issues, perhaps the lone benefit from Thursday night's sloppy 26-6 loss to Baltimore, a game in which the emotionally charged Ravens handled Pittsburgh for the better part of 60 minutes.
Suddenly, all the optimism that blossomed during the first half of a season-opening win against Cleveland seems like a distant memory.
''We got a good ole fashioned (butt) whooping,'' cornerback Ike Taylor said. ''We beat ourselves, and they capitalized. That's how it is in the NFL. It's already hard enough, and when you beat yourself, and they capitalize, it doesn't make anything better.''
Pittsburgh's defense failed to record a takeaway for the second straight week and rarely put any pressure on Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco. Even worse, a handful of flags allowed the Ravens to extend drives they turned into touchdowns.
And while the Steelers expected some growing pains while mixing in new players, some of the miscues were from established veterans. Cornerback Cortez Allen drew two penalties, including a pass interference penalty that set up the Ravens' first score.
Safety Troy Polamalu was called for unnecessary roughness for hitting Baltimore tight end Owen Daniels high and Mike Mitchell earned one of his own for targeting Baltimore's Steve Smith during an incompletion in the end zone.
The result was a rare blowout in a series built on tight finishes. The last time the Steelers lost to the Ravens by more than three points came in the 2011 opener, when they were crushed 35-7. Pittsburgh recovered to go 12-4 and make the playoffs.
Considering the regular season is barely a week old, it's hardly time to panic.
Yet the fast start during a dizzying two quarters against Cleveland - when Pittsburgh raced to a 27-3 lead - has sputtered out quickly.
''We have to play cleaner,'' Tomlin said. ''We have to play better, technically, and cleaner.''
No one was immune. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed 22 of 37 passes for 217 yards and an interception. He absorbed two sacks from Baltimore's Elvis Dumervil and a handful of shots from a defense that seemed to control the line of scrimmage for much of the night.
Roethlisberger declined to blame the pressure as an issue, but he also missed a couple of makeable plays that could have led to big gains.
He threw behind wide receiver Justin Brown on a crossing pattern in the second quarter when Brown had nothing but open field in front of him and did the same in the third quarter to tight end Heath Miller.
''It's frustrating because we lost,'' Roethlisberger said. ''We moved the ball; we just made a mistake here and there, and we can't do it.''
Brown and Miller had their problems when Roethlisberger did manage to get the ball in their hands.
Justin Brown fumbled while stretching for a first down on Pittsburgh's opening drive. The Ravens recovered and drove 85 yards in 12 plays to take a lead they would never relinquish.
Trailing by 14 in the fourth quarter, Pittsburgh's last legitimate chance at getting back in it ended quickly when Miller couldn't hang on to a short pass and Baltimore's C.J. Mosley picked it up.
Six plays later, the Ravens were up 23-6 and the Steelers' chance to start 2-0 for the first time since 2010 was gone.
''We wanted to come out fast and we did but we can't turn the ball over the way we did,'' Antonio Brown said. ''We need to protect the ball better. When you go on the road and turn the ball over, it's very hard to overcome. We have a good offense. We will go back to the drawing board and find ways to put points in the board.''
Doing a better job on first down would help. Too often on Thursday, Pittsburgh would find itself ''behind the chains'' as Roethlisberger put it because it couldn't muster much when the downs were reset.
Running back Le'Veon Bell finished with 107 total yards (59 rushing, 48 receiving) but the Steelers were forced to abandon the run at times after falling behind or getting into difficult down and distance situations.
''It's already hard to pick up a first down, as it is,'' Bell said. ''When you hurt yourself and it's first-and-20 going against a good defense, it makes it that much harder. We just need to clean up some things.''
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