Monday, November 06, 2006
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Linebacker Larry Foote compared the Steelers' 2-6 record to an earthquake, and the tremors rumbled through their locker room after the most recent disaster, a 31-20 loss amid a flood of six turnovers to the Denver Broncos at Heinz Field.
Halfback Willie Parker, who scored his team's only two touchdowns, wondered whether the Steelers have had one big letdown after winning a Super Bowl.
"Last year, we were getting the job done, we just seemed hungrier," said Parker. "This year, it seems like we already got what we want, what's the use? What's the use of going out there and selling out?"
Parker said he also felt a lack of trust among teammates.
"Right now I don't think we're believing in everybody. I don't think we're looking at the guy next to us and being like, 'He has my back, I can trust this guy.' I don't think we trust the guy next to us right now."
Wide receiver Hines Ward, whose last of seven receptions ended when he lost a fumble at the goal line with 1:50 left, was already talking about playing for next season.
"At 2-6, you have to audition for next year. For me, it just sucks because I put everything I had into this game. Then to let my team down with the fumble really hurts a lot."
The Steelers never had a lead after falling behind 14-0 in the first four minutes, but they made a game of it and still had a shot until Ward's fumble. He caught a pass from the 11 and leaped into the air and tried to stretch the ball across the goal line as two Broncos converged on him. Linebacker Al Wilson knocked the ball loose, and that was that.
For the fourth time this season, the Steelers outgained an opponent and lost because of turnovers. They rang up 499 yards to Denver's 336, but the Broncos committed no turnovers.
"This will reveal a lot," coach Bill Cowher said. "There are high-character guys there. It's very disappointing. It's very frustrating. It's funny how life works. Sometimes you're at the pinnacle, and sometimes you're at the bottom."
Already, the Steelers have 24 turnovers, one more than all of last season, and they were at a loss to explain that difference as much as they were their stunningly poor first half of the season.
"I don't know," said Foote. "Why do earthquakes happen? Nobody knows."
Ben Roethlisberger threw three more interceptions, although one came on a desperation pass at the end. He completed a team-record 38 passes in 54 attempts for 433 yards, second most in team history, and had one 15-yard touchdown pass to Parker. The Steelers ran only 19 times, for 96 yards with Parker gaining 70 of them.
"That was the game plan, get out and throw the ball, and I think we did a good job of it," Roethlisberger said.
But turnovers put the Steelers in a hole early and they kept digging it deeper as the game went on.