Steinbrenner, a Yankees co-chairperson, spoke up in an interview published Wednesday in the New York Post, saying, "We've got to forget about all the injuries and start playing our butts off.
"The bottom line is that the team is not playing the way it is capable of playing," he continued. "These players are being paid a lot of money and they had better decide for themselves to earn that money."
The Yankees' $209 million payroll is the highest in baseball, but New York has lacked offensive thump with Rodriguez, last year's American League MVP, and Posada both mending injuries. Rodriguez could rejoin the Yankees next week, but Posada is expected to be out until at least June.
The Yankees were shut out through eight innings on Tuesday before Hideki Matsui hit a game-tying home run in the ninth inning off Rays closer Troy Percival, but lost in 11 innings when Gabe Gross touched Mariano Rivera for his first run allowed this season.
"We have good professional hitters and I have a lot of faith in them," Steinbrenner told the Post from Tampa. "I'm not saying they are not giving the effort, but they need to be playing harder."
The Rays celebrated their extra-inning victory -- their third this season -- off Rivera with vigor, as Jonny Gomes tossed his helmet while running home and two celebrations broke out on the infield at Tropicana Field.
The Rays moved into first place in the American League East with the victory, and though manager Joe Girardi said the energy level of his club is fine, Steinbrenner would not mind seeing the Yankees act a little more like the up-and-coming Rays.
"[The Yankees have] got to start playing the way the Rays are playing," Steinbrenner said. "[The Yankees] need to start treating it like when they were younger players and going after that big contract, like they're in [Triple-A] and trying to make the Majors. That's the kind of attitude and fire the players have to have.
"There's no question we need to turn it around and we have the talent to turn it around. We've got the team in place, and now they just have to go out and do it."
Steinbrenner also mentioned he would like to see the Rays draw better at Tropicana Field. Back to the topic of his own team, Steinbrenner did not rule out seeking help this season to attend to problem areas.
"We'll add whoever we have to add," he said. "We're missing two big pieces, but this is basically the same lineup as last year. I have great faith in all of them."
According to the Post, Steinbrenner also praised the work of Chien-Ming Wang, Rivera and Joba Chamberlain, and said Mike Mussina and Darrell Rasner have done a good job as well.
He said the future rotation looks bright with Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy and last year's top pick, Andrew Brackman, who threw a bullpen session with Girardi catching on Tuesday at Tropicana Field.
"This is going to get turned around," Steinbrenner said. "If it's not turned around this year, then it will be turned around next year, by force if we have to."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.