Never in a million years could Patriots fans envision a time when a team losing to them would be considered embarrassing, but that is how far the kingdom has fallen this season, as at least one Steelers player has called out his teammates for failing to get the job done on Thursday Night Football.
It's clear that when a team loses to a team with a losing record, feelings will be hurt, and frustration will inevitably come out. Because the Patriots came into their matchup with Pittsburgh with a 2-10 record, coming off a game they lost by two field goals just one week ago, there was not a single soul on planet Earth who believed they would walk out of Acrisure Stadium with a win.
From Bailey Zappe being given the start after a less-than-impressive performance against the Chargers in Week 13 and having just three wide receivers suited up for the offense to an unreliable offensive line needing to keep a guy like T.J. Watt from taking over the game, the Patriots chances of doing much of anything productive seemed slim to none.
But it was clear right away that was not the fate they accepted as soon as they stepped foot on the field.
Zappe led the offense on a 75-yard touchdown drive to open the game, getting the Patriots first-quarter points for the first time since Thanksgiving last year. They continued with that momentum the rest of the first half, scoring two more touchdowns, one off of an interception courtesy of Jabrill Peppers, and entered halftime with a lead of 21-10.
The rest of the game wasn't as exciting, recording five punts and an interception. But because the defense came to play and wanted to continue the roll they have been on, they were able to keep the Steelers from taking over the game, allowing just one score and forcing a turnover on downs two times.
This eventually led to the Steelers losing, making them lose consecutive games embarrassingly. It's what prompted Minkah Fitzpatrick to call out his teammates as he spoke to the media post-game, questioning their desire to work hard and win as a reason for the piling up of losses.
"In order to see the fruit, you've gotta toil for it. I think too many people don't want to toil for it. They just want to walk out here and think that they're going to make plays and think that they're going to perform at a high level. I think we need to have more people who want to work for it, not expect it to be handed to them.
This is the NFL. Nothing's handed to you. You got to earn everything. I think that dudes just think that because they're wearing the black and gold, that they're going to win games, and I think we need to check that mentality and make people realize that they got to earn that mentality, and they got to earn every single blade of grass, every single splash play and every single rep that they get out there. They got to earn it."
Considering they made NFL history as the first team with a winning record to lose back-to-back games to teams at least eight games under .500, it's hard to blame Fitzpatrick for expressing his anger and publicly calling out his teammates.
Maybe it wasn't something he did just because they lost to the Patriots, although, based on how bad they are this year, it would be warranted. But perhaps it's more about how their last week has gone since Kenny Pickett left with an injury.
Before losing to the Patriots, the Steelers lost at home to another 2-10 team, the Cardinals. They lost 24-10, far worse than their 21-18 score on Thursday. But surely, losing both games in the fashion they did has brought on some tension within the team.