By Scott Brown
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
He sacked Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer twice, once forcing a fumble, and spearheaded a spirited effort by the Steelers' defense.
Had linebacker Clark Haggans celebrated his individual accomplishments following a dispiriting 28-20 loss Sunday, he would have looked as out of place as Troy Polamalu in a Hair Club for Men commercial.
"Being in a locker room this quiet isn't us," Haggans said.
The church-like quiet that prevailed in the home locker room at Heinz Field turned out to be fitting since now is a time of reflection for the defending Super Bowl champions.
The Steelers have a bye this week and don't return to practice at their South Side facility until Wednesday. The week off comes at a bad time because the Steelers have an extra week to stew over the tough loss to Cincinnati.
Or does it?
"This might be the time that we need to take a gut check and check ourselves and re-dedicate ourselves to the basics and play some good football," All-Pro guard Alan Faneca said.
"I think," Polamalu said of the bye week, "it will be good for everybody."
The Steelers certainly need to regroup. They have dropped two games in a row and, with a trip to San Diego looming next week, they are looking down the barrel of a 1-3 start.
An offense that couldn't do anything in a 9-0 loss at Jacksonville piled up 170 rushing yards against the Bengals but turned the ball over four times, three of which came on Ben Roethlisberger interceptions.
"We're trying to figure out what our identity is right now," said running back Willie Parker, who rushed for 133 yards and a pair of scores in the loss to Cincinnati.
The biggest thing the Steelers -- specifically coach Bill Cowher -- need to figure out is what to do in regard to the punt return game.
It had been a liability before Sunday. And it likely cost the Steelers the game against the Bengals as Ricardo Colclough fumbled a punt with just over nine minutes to play and the Steelers leading, 17-14.
The Bengals recovered on the Steelers' 9 and scored a touchdown on the next play. They never trailed again in improving to 3-0.
"It's one of those (losses) that has the potential to, down the road, (make you) look back on it and say, 'We let one get away from us, and now we're fighting to make it into the playoffs' " Faneca said.