Mike Tomlin takes hard line with receivers after 1st Steelers loss: 'Catch the ball ... or get replaced'

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Jason Owens
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Dropped passes plagued the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday in their stunning loss to the Washington Football Team.

Head coach Mike Tomlin delivered a stern message to his receivers on Tuesday: Do your job. Or lose it.

“They can catch the ball or they can get replaced by those that will catch it,” Tomlin told reporters. “It’s as simple as that. I expect guys to make routine plays routinely.

“When there is a pattern of that not happening, then we’ve got to look at who we’re throwing the ball to.”

PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA - DECEMBER 07: Head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on prior to their game against the Washington Football Team at Heinz Field on December 07, 2020 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Mike Tomlin had a stern message on Tuesday. Do your job. Or lose it. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

‘Not something I’ve got a lot of patience for’

The previously undefeated Steelers looked in control while taking a 14-3 lead into halftime. But the offense sputtered in the second half with multiple drives stunted by dropped passes from the Steelers’ receiving corps. Pittsburgh mustered just three points after halftime in the 23-17 loss.

Tomlin is not interested in coaching basic football mechanics to professional pass catchers.

“The coaching of catching the football for those who are employed to do it at this level is not something I’ve got a lot of patience for,” Tomlin continued. ... “Those guys job is to catch the football, particularly the routine ones.”

Paging Eric Ebron

This might as well be a direct message to Eric Ebron. The Steelers’ tight end accounted for three of Pittsburgh’s seven dropped passes on Monday, by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s count. Ebron has been plagued by drops his entire career and is on his third team after being selected with the No. 10 pick in the 2014 draft out of North Carolina.

He has shown flashes of production that hint at his upside and made the Pro Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts in 2018. He dropped 8.2 percent of his catchable passes that same season and 9.6 percent in 2019, according to Pro Football Reference — numbers that played a part in the Colts letting him walk in free agency last offseason.

He appeared to acknowledge his role in the Steelers’ struggles Monday on social media.

Wide receiver Diontae Johnson joined Ebron in dropping three passes on Monday as the Steelers lost a game that could have turned on a single possession. Johnson is having a breakout campaign in his second season in Pittsburgh, but he is drawing a closer look from Tomlin with the playoffs approaching.

The sky isn’t falling in Pittsburgh with the Steelers (11-1) still on track for the No. 1 seed in the AFC. But things are about to get a lot tougher with games remaining against the Buffalo Bills, Indianapolis and Cleveland Browns — all teams on track to join Pittsburgh in the playoffs.

It’s a less-than ideal point of the season to be focusing on fundamentals. Tomlin’s not here for it.

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