OAKLAND, Calif. - Warren Sapp has been where the Pittsburgh Steelers are right now: a Super Bowl champion struggling to defend the title.
Three years ago, Sapp's Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished with a losing record after winning it all, unable to overcome all the distractions that come from being Super Bowl champions.
"I guess the egos would be the biggest thing," Sapp said. "Because you fight so long and so hard to get to that pinnacle. And once you get there, sometimes you lose sight of what it took for you to get to that point. Now you got to set aside that everybody has a car dealership, everybody has a commercial. Everybody's a superstar now. Everybody's a champion. So you just got to focus in on the things that took you to that championship. Sometimes that becomes difficult."
The Steelers (2-4) have their own problems as they come into Oakland to play Sapp's Raiders on Sunday. They've lost four of five games and are trying to avoid becoming the eighth Super Bowl champion to finish with a losing record the following season.
Sapp's Bucs were one of those teams, finishing 7-9 in 2003. Raiders coach Art Shell also experienced it as a player when Oakland followed its 1980 championship season with a 7-9 mark.
"The most difficult thing is that you can't relax and you can't think you can play like you played last year," Shell said. "You have to play better than you did last year because everybody is geared up for you. They watch every single tape from last year, game-planning you. ... They have the bull's-eye on your back and it's difficult."
That's something the Steelers have been dealing with this season. They've struggled to understand how a team like Jacksonville could shut them out one week and then give up 36 points to Washington and 27 to Houston.
Or how Atlanta managed to score 41 points against Pittsburgh with Michael Vick looking like a Pro Bowl passer a week after the Falcons scored just 14 in a sloppy performance against the Giants.
Now they face a Raiders team that's 1-5, but looking at this game as a way to validate themselves.
"We notice things like that," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "We watch film and, obviously, check other games out, and you see how tough it was playing against a team and then you watch them the following week, or two weeks later, or three weeks later, and it's like, where was the team that we played?"