Steelers open to changes, know talent not enough after Jacksonville flop

Stephen A. doles out blame for Steelers' loss (2:04)

Stephen A. Smith calls out Pittsburgh free safety Mike Mitchell and head coach Mike Tomlin for costing the Steelers a shot at the AFC championship. (2:04)

PITTSBURGH -- Alejandro Villanueva qualifies that he's speaking from his left-tackle "bubble" and has no idea what it takes to win a Super Bowl.

But based on the immense talent on the Pittsburgh Steelers roster, Villanueva wonders what is missing after a promising season ended abruptly in a 45-42 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"Maybe it's not just talent that's gonna get you to the championship. And maybe we need to find that out," said Villanueva during the team's locker room cleanup Monday. "I think that maybe you can look around the NFL and see what traits are winning Super Bowls, and maybe that's a winning formula.

"It's almost like college football, you have to be that dominant throughout the season. And when you go into the playoffs you have to show that dominance. It's not one of those things where you get to the playoffs and then you can maybe scramble and get by and win three games."

This was the kind of loss that shakes a franchise at its core. The Steelers are known not to overreact but must take a hard look at why the product on the field Sunday was curious compared to the rest of the season.

The Steelers coaching staff has come under scrutiny after the Jaguars rushed for 164 yards and posted 35 points of offense while two turnovers and two failed fourth-and-1s off curious playcalls doomed the offense.

The defense was particularly alarming after recording zero sacks or turnovers, leaving tight ends and running backs wide open on underneath routes.

Defensive end and team captain Cameron Heyward said coaches organized a great game plan for the Steelers defense but "it doesn't matter what (scheme) you play" if the execution is lacking. The entire defense suffers when players blow assignments, he said.

"I don't know about changes, but we have to grow," Heyward said. "I challenge everyone to continue to grow. The things that happen this year can't happen next year. Obviously there will be new problems and things we have to correct. But let's find a new problem."

Several Steelers players say the constant drama surrounding the team -- including the perception it was looking ahead to next week's New England Patriots matchup -- did not affect preparation for the Jaguars, who were fueled by the chatter.

From the anthem flap to star-player discord to explosive quotes to the media, the locker-room stories seemed to galvanize the Steelers on the way to 13 regular-season wins.

"This is the most adversity I've ever been through in a football season that had nothing to do with football," linebacker Vince Williams said.

But Sunday showed the Steelers weren't quite good enough to back up the talk. Figuring out that balance will be crucial for 2018.