The Pittsburgh Steelers were punched in the mouth repeatedly during Sunday’s season opener against the New England Patriots. The game was essentially out of reach from the get go, but Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin continued to subject his starters to a blowout game, and as a result, two of his key players left with injury.
Steelers linebacker TJ Watt was ruled out for the remainder of the game midway through the fourth with a hip injury. Starting center Maurkice Pouncey left with a leg injury. To make matters even worse, No. 1 receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster limped off the field in the final minute-plus remaining in the fourth quarter.
— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) September 9, 2019
The final MINUTE-PLUS! Why?
It’s unknown what caused Watt’s ailment, or the severity. Perhaps Pittsburgh’s staff was simply being cautious, with the game already far out of reach. But why weren’t they cautious…ahead of time?
Pouncey was ruled out at the same time as Watt, as he limped off the field. The Steelers pride themselves on their stout offensive line, and can ill afford Pouncey missing any significant time.
— Dejan Kovacevic (@Dejan_Kovacevic) September 9, 2019
However, the true damage was done once Smith-Schuster was tackled by Patriots rookie Chase Winovich during a play with 1:33 remaining. As a result, Smith-Schuster limped off the field.
JuJu Smith-Schuster limps off after being tackled in a 33-3 game with less than 2 minutes left. Okie dokie.
— Frank Schwab (@YahooSchwab) September 9, 2019
Tomlin keeping his starters out in the fourth quarter of a blowout is certainly head-scratching. The offense couldn’t get anything done, and the defense was systematically picked apart by Tom Brady.
Steelers fans will be waiting with bated breath on the statuses of both TJ Watt and JuJu Smith-Schuster, something they didn’t expect to be doing in Week 1.
This game was an embarrassment from start to finish. Why did Mike Tomlin insist on rubbing it in his starters’ faces, to the point where it only further bit him?