Tuesday, November 07, 2006
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
W, 28-17 -- Charlie Batch succesfully replaced the injured Ben Roethlisberger and Joey Porter had two sacks and an interception return for a touchdown.
L, 9-0 -- The Steelers were shut out for the first time since 2003 as Roethlisberger threw two interceptions in his return after an emergency appendectomy.
L, 28-20 -- Despite Willie Parker's 133 rushing yards and two touchdowns, the Steelers couldn't overcome five costly turnovers against the Bengals.
L, 23-13 -- After taking the lead in the first half, the Steelers were held to 49 yards of offense in the second half against the Chargers.
W, 45-7 -- The Steelers snapped a three-game losing streak as Roethlisberger got back on track by throwing two touchdowns and no interceptions.
L, 41-38 OT -- Roethlisberger sustained a concussion and the Steelers lost three fumbles in a disappointing overtime loss in Atlanta.
, 20-13 -- Although the Steelers outgained the Raiders by 262 yards, they could not overcome Roethlisberger's four interceptions in Oakland.
L, 31-20 -- The Steelers turned the ball over a season-high six times, including a crucial goal-line fumble by Hines Ward late in the fourth quarter.
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The Steelers put themselves in position to achieve some dubious distinctions in the second half of the season.
At 2-6, they are on pace to have the worst record for a defending Super Bowl champion in the game's 40-year history. They also are on track to produce their worst record since the 1970 NFL merger, topping the 1988 team that went 5-11 after a 2-10 start.
Bubby Brister was the quarterback of that '88 ballclub, which was the epitome of football's follies. It prompted him to declare that they were so bad on offense they should punt on first down. He called for any fans who could rush the passer to report to Three Rivers Stadium because the Steelers could use them. That team also caused Brister to become so frustrated that he proclaimed "I'm coming ungluuued!"
The talent on the '88 Steelers was nowhere near as good as the talent on the '06 Steelers, most of which returned from the '05 Super Bowl championship team. Yet here they are, in a tie for the second-worst record in the league. Only the 1-7 Arizona Cardinals are worse. At this rate, the Steelers will compete for the top pick in the draft before they do the playoffs.
"We didn't become sorry overnight," receiver Hines Ward said. "We have the same nucleus on the team, minus one guy here and there."
It's their record that became sorry overnight. The Steelers have lost six of their past seven games after an opening victory against Miami. The surprise, besides the number of losses, is how they lost them. They lost four games in which they outgained their opponents.
They have outgained their foes by more than 80 yards per game, producing an average of 364.3 yards to their opponents' 284.1.
The Steelers' 2006 season has been lost in a sea of turnovers; they've committed 24 or one more than they had last season. At this rate, they will commit more turnovers than any Steelers team under coach Bill Cowher and even outstrip that '88 bumbling ballclub, which had 39 turnovers.
As much as this team is being stung by them, however, the amount of turnovers doesn't necessarily factor into a team's record. If the Steelers finish with twice the turnovers they have today, it still won't top the 52 times their 1979 club lost the ball. That team went 12-4 in the regular season and won the franchise's fourth Super Bowl. The next-highest total came in 1983, when the Steelers had 43 turnovers and went 10-6 to make the playoffs.