By Mike Prisuta
Sunday, October 29, 2006
Forgive Ben Roethlisberger's Steelers teammates for feeling as if -- like their recently-concussed quarterback -- they should have their heads examined right about now.
"If you had told me we'd put up 38 (points) and lose, I'd have told you, 'You need to go get checked out,' " free safety Ryan Clark said following the Steelers' most recent head-scratching setback, a 41-38 overtime loss in Atlanta.
"If you would have told us going into training camp we'd be 2-4 at this point, everyone in here would have probably been shaking their heads," defensive end Brett Keisel said. "We feel like we're a championship team, and we shouldn't be in this situation."
That said, there's no misunderstanding the Steelers' plight. The defending-Super Bowl champions are an uncharacteristic 2-4, they trail Baltimore and Cincinnati by two games in the AFC North Division and they've lost four of their last five heading into this afternoon's meeting with the Raiders in Oakland.
The Steelers are having a hard time understanding how they've gotten themselves into such a predicament.
Their collective reaction to having done so is much easier to comprehend.
"We're (ticked)," Keisel said.
Added linebacker Larry Foote: "I'm definitely (ticked). Flying home from Atlanta we didn't feel too good, definitely on the defensive side, having given up all those points."
Statistically, the biggest difference this season has been turnovers.
The Steelers lost nine fumbles, threw 14 interceptions and finished at a respectable plus-7 in takeaway/give-away differential in 2005.
This season, they've already lost seven fumbles, been picked off 10 times and are an unacceptable minus-2 in that critical turnover category.
As a result, they've been unable to put teams away and unable to put four quarters together for the most part.
According to Roethlisberger, they've also been unlucky.
"The funny thing about football is there's a lot of skill involved, but there's (also) quite a bit of luck involved," he said. "Whether the ball gets tipped this way or it bounces that way, we haven't been getting those breaks right now. And we've had our fair share the last two years, last year especially.
"We're just keeping the hope alive that if we keep playing this level of football, that the ball will start bouncing our way, and the luck will start turning our way. If that happens, and we play the level of football we feel we can play, then we can run off quite a few games."
They may have to if they hope to reach the postseason.
The wild cards in the AFC a season ago finished 12-4 (Jacksonville) and 11-5 (the Steelers).