Soul-searching begins after team's flaws exposed again
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
SAN DIEGO -- The Steelers made a long trip to sunny California and departed without ever finding daylight. Things instead grew darker for them after they lost their third consecutive game to slip to 1-3.
They have gone from Super Bowl champs to ones looking very much like one-hit wonders and there is only a single solution.
"Victories," proclaimed linebacker Clark Haggans. "And us playing Steelers football. That'll get us out."
This new version of Steelers football doesn't cut it. It features turnovers, an inconsistent running game and a defense that looks dominant most of the time, susceptible at the wrong times.
Willie Parker and the ground game looked fine in the first half against the Chargers when the Steelers ran 14 times for 55 yards and one touchdown, but they ran only four times in the second half. That's not the kind of Steelers football that Haggans referred to.
"We got things going and then, all of a sudden, things weren't going for us," guard Alan Faneca said. "We came out and it didn't feel like we had too many plays in the second half. We had a couple of turnovers and they had some good drives and we couldn't get back in rhythm."
Interceptions have a way of killing that, and Ben Roethlisberger threw two more. He has thrown seven interceptions and no touchdowns in his three games. The quarterback who set the rookie passer rating record at 98.1 and who has the top two passer ratings in Steelers history has a 41.67 rating after three games. After going 13-0 in his first season and winning a Super Bowl in his second, he's looking more like a rookie in his third.
Roethlisberger described the obstacle that confronts the team as a hump, while most of his teammates called it a hole. Whether they have to climb over it or out of it, they need to start Sunday against Kansas City or they will become the first Steelers team in a long time to be counted out with half a season left.
No Bill Cowher-coached team ever started as poorly as 1-4. The previous time the Steelers did so was in 1988, when they opened 1-6 and finished 5-11. Most famously, their 1976 team lost four of its first five as two-time defending Super Bowl champs and rebounded to go 9-4 and make it to the AFC championship game. But that team had nine Hall of Fame players on it.
"There's going to be a lot of soul searching," said Hines Ward, who hasn't gone this long without a 100-yard receiving game since 2001. "We don't have time to sit there. We don't have any more bye weeks.
"It's not a good feeling, being in the spot we're in. It's been three or four years since I've been in this spot. It is what it is. We're not playing good football."