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The Steelers loss to the Bears does nothing to quiet Mike Tomlin's critics

The Steelers 23-17 overtime loss to the Bears on Sunday did nothing to silence the critics who say head coach Mike Tomlin can't get his teams up to play against inferior teams on the road.

Minnesota Vikings v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

In the days leading up to the Steelers Week 3 match-up against the Bears at Soldier Field on Sunday, I had a sinking feeling.

Call is a sixth sense, but I just knew I would be getting those familiar texts from my brother during the course of the game, like: "WHAT IS GOING ON!?! IT'S THE FREAKIN' (insert inferior team here)!"

In this case, it was the freakin' Bears, an 0-2 team led by Mike Glennon at quarterback, that came into the day as a 7 12 point home underdog.

After kickoff, it didn't take long before I started getting those hysterical all-caps texts from my brother:


That was the first text from my brother, and you can blame Eli Rogers, the full-time slot receiver and (hopefully) never again punt returner for it, thanks to his muffed punt early in the first quarter that led to the Bears first touchdown and a 7-0 deficit.

Before long it was, "What the hell is going on tj this is crazy." (At least he used no caps that time.)

And, finally, after the Steelers found themselves on the wrong end of a 23-17 contest that was decided early in overtime: "You have got to be kidding me tj we lose to this bum ass team!!"

My last text of "Typical" was fitting, as I certainly wasn't surprised by the outcome.

And isn't that the saddest part of all?

Don't get me wrong, just because your favorite football team is very good, this certainly doesn't exempt it from an upset loss from time-to-time (they happen to every team), but when you're to the point where you're not surprised? That tells you it's probably an actual thing and not just your imagination.

Case-in-point, the loss dropped the Steelers to 5-13 in their last 18 road games in-which they were favored.

Is this the exception to the rule, as head coach Mike Tomlin's critics have pointed out in recent years, or is this indicative of life in the NFL for most football teams—even the very good ones?

After all, as the late, great Beano Cook was often fond of saying matter-of-factly: "It's awfully tough to win on the road."

Again, I don't know if Tomlin is seriously lacking in getting his teams ready to play in these types of games, or if this is just commonplace.

I do know this latest defeat does nothing to silence those aforementioned critics. I also know I won't necessarily be licking my chops the next time Pittsburgh goes on the road to face a team with nothing much to play for, other than the following spring's top draft choice.

You know what else I know?

Where the Steelers are supposed to go this year, and that's the Super Bowl. True, it's the annual goal for every black and gold-wearing coach, player and fan, but this year there is no question that a seventh Lombardi is the only acceptable outcome.

It's no secret that in order to achieve the ultimate prize, the Steelers need to win as many games as possible during the regular season.

Will 13 be enough for a number one seed? What about just a bye?

What record will be needed to avoid playing three postseason games in-order to get to the Super Bowl?

Bottom line is the stakes are higher for the Steelers than they've been in a while, and this certainly wasn't the year to keep that "crappy play against inferior teams" narrative rolling.

With the Ravens getting embarrassed by the Jaguars in London Sunday morning (Pittsburgh time), the Steelers had a chance to establish themselves as not only the team to beat in the AFC North, but one that was head and shoulders above everyone else in the division.

Can the Steelers still establish that, starting next Sunday in Baltimore? Sure. But they're now just one loss away (one loss against those frustrating to play Ravens) from sending everyone into full panic-mode.

That might seem a bit sensational for a Week 4 clash, but with games looming against the surprisingly competitive Jaguars and Super Bowl-contending Chiefs in subsequent weeks, a pushing of the panic button may not be too far off.

A week 3 victory over those seemingly pathetic Bears could have prevented all that, but with a loss a reality, there are so many other things that now may be prevented from happening for the Steelers in a positive sense as the regular season runs its course.

That all remains to be seen, obviously, but I do know one more thing:

Mike Tomlin still has the stigma of a head coach who can't get his teams up to play against inferior teams on the road.