Gunner Olszewski wasn’t the only Pittsburgh Steeler who screwed up on the pivotal play of Sunday’s loss to the New England Patriots.
“We don’t have a launchpad like you do in high school or college,” Tomlin told reporters in Pittsburgh. “We’ve got a bunch of professional guys. We expect the 11 professionals to be on the field, and there are consequences when they aren’t. Obviously, it’s September and it happened, and we have to absorb the responsibility associated with that. But we don’t have any unique procedures in terms of head-counting and things of that nature.
“We expect those guys to be on the field, and we didn’t have 11 on the field at that time.”
Pittsburgh’s substitution error left gunner Brenden Schooler unblocked, giving him an unimpeded path to Olszewski. When Jake Bailey’s punt bounced off the former Patriots return man’s hands, Schooler pounced on it, giving New England possession inside the red zone.
Three plays later, Damien Harris scored what proved to be the deciding 2-yard touchdown in a 17-14 Patriots victory at Acrisure Stadium.
Though Olszewski wasn’t responsible for his return unit missing a man, Tomlin said he should have identified the mistake and called for a fair catch.
“The return man counts the bodies and fair-catches the ball if we’re short 11,” the coach said. “So we had multiple breakdowns, obviously, on that play.”
Veteran Patriots safety Devin McCourty remarked on Pittsburgh’s personnel gaffe during his postgame presser.
“They didn’t block (Schooler) on the muff,” he said. “That’s probably not what you want to do, to not block the gunner. But to go down there and capitalize off a mistake is huge. A big percentage of that game is that: capitalizing off mistakes and being ready to go when the opportunity presents itself.”