That defeat—a fourth-straight—dropped Pittsburgh to 4-5 and intensified the cries for major changes to be made in the front office and, more palpably, on the coaching staff—mainly, the head coach.
Over the past 12 months, accusations that the Steelers are an undisciplined football team, one that doesn't put in the necessary work to defeat a juggernaut like the Patriots, have joined those cries for major changes.
The funny thing is, though, since that Dallas loss, Pittsburgh has won 15 of its past 18 games of consequence and heads into its 2017 second half lid-lifter against the Colts on Sunday afternoon at 6-2, a record that tops the AFC.
So why these accusations of a lack of focus? Why are people calling the Steelers undisciplined?
I'm sure Antonio Brown's Facebook Live feed in the locker room right after the emotional victory over the Chiefs last January didn't help.
Other ways Brown doesn't help quiet those 'undisciplined' accusations are when he throws Gatorade coolers on the sideline and celebrates to the point of drawing a penalty after scoring a touchdown.
If you want to, throw in Mike Mitchell's propensity to celebrate a vicious hit that occurs after a large gain by the opponent; Ben Roethlisberger's frequent cryptic messages to the media; Martavis Bryant's less-than-cryptic Tweets about JuJu Smith-Schuster (along with his recent year-long suspension for drug use); Le'Veon Bell's training camp holdout (along with his propensity to create rap music); and the fact that his players, on average, are a little more free-spirited than those defending Super Bowl champions northeast of Pittsburgh, perhaps it's a little easier to understand the perception that Mike Tomlin's team is a tail that’s wagging the dog.
But perceptions are one thing; reality is another.
Undisciplined football teams don't often manage to avoid losing more than three games over the course of an entire year. Unfocused players, regardless of their talent, can't keep up their level of performance long enough to attain a 15-3 record, good for an .833 winning-percentage.
In fact, professional sports history is littered with stories of supremely talented teams who didn't respect their coaches or managers, didn't get along in the locker room or clubhouse and, more importantly, didn't get the job done on the field, rink or court.
The Pittsburgh Penguins, a professional hockey team that's been among the elite in the sport for well over a decade, had to fire two of its most-recent head coaches mere months before winning two of its past three Stanley Cups. Why? Because the players, led by Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang (unquestionably some of the greatest talents in the world) just stopped listening, communicating and, perhaps most importantly, caring. Before righting the ship, they were in danger of missing the postseason.
Regardless of what you might think of Tomlin, he's never lost his players. The message must still be getting through—otherwise, you don't turn a 4-5 record into an 11-5 finish and an appearance in the AFC title game. You don't turn 0-4 and 2-6 starts into 8-8 finishes and a near-playoff appearance (2013). You don't survive the four-game suspension of your once very-immature franchise quarterback and then go on to make the Super Bowl (2010).
No, unless you're the Harlem Globetrotters, it's hard to survive in professional sports without discipline and true leadership that starts with the head coach.
The 2017 Pittsburgh Steelers have that discipline. Otherwise, in addition to complaining about their touchdown celebrations and cryptic messages to the media, we'd also be depressed about their poor record.