By Mike Prisuta
Sunday, September 17, 2006
It takes about a month or so each season, Steelers coach Bill Cowher suspects, before he really knows what type of team he has, what sort of hand he's been dealt.
Will the individuals embrace their roles or become distracted by selfish goals?
Will the group compete at all costs or back down at the first sign of trouble?
Will the identity be that of a champion or an also-ran?
Cowher's still searching for such answers as the Steelers head to Jacksonville to play the Jaguars in their second game of the season.
If the opener against the Miami Dolphins is any indication, these Steelers are well on their way to duplicating last season's mindset, as they continue to deal with the inevitable changes that have altered their season-to-season makeup.
"Like coach Cowher says, it's tough to find your identity because we're a different team than we were last year with the loss of some key leaders," strong safety Troy Polamalu said. "But it's always nice to win, especially the way we did.
"We'll find out in the future how we hold up."
The future continues for the NFL's defending champions Monday night at Alltel Stadium. For the second consecutive week, the Steelers will be tested under the bright lights of a nationally-televised game. It's also the second of four prime-time games the defending Super Bowl champions are scheduled to play this season.
The challenge the Steelers face tomorrow is one they have embraced in the past, as evidenced by their 26-15 record in prime-time, regular-season games under coach Bill Cowher. That includes an 18-7 record on the stage known as Monday Night Football.
The Steelers' opener against the Dolphins, if not definitive, was at least revealing.
And the nature of their 28-17, come-from-behind victory was inspiring enough that it had Cowher gushing about the way his players "responded" throughout, and about how "no state of panic had ever set in on our football team."