Thursday, November 09, 2006
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Today, many Republicans know how the Steelers feel. Riding high as the dominant team, they have been swept up in a landslide of losses and face the next few months as lame ducks, soon to be no longer the ruling party of the land.
The shock of it all, at least for the defending Super Bowl champions, was evident as they reconvened yesterday to begin preparations for what they hope will become a better second half to a lost season.
In fact, linebacker Joey Porter promised a new beginning will take place Sunday when they play the 6-2 New Orleans Saints at Heinz Field.
"You know me," Porter said, "I want to put some of the pressure on my shoulder for us to go out and get this victory: We will come back with a victory on Sunday."
His teammates can only hope Porter's words work as well as they did during the playoffs last season, when he called out the Indianapolis Colts and later the Seattle Seahawks' tight end, Jerramy Stevens.
The circumstances are different this time. At 7-5, the Steelers had to win eight games in a row to win Super Bowl XL. At 2-6, they'd probably have to win 12 in a row to win Super Bowl XLI, a miracle not on their minds these days.
"I'm embarrassed,'' admitted reigning Super Bowl MVP Hines Ward. "I can't speak for other players. Me, personally, myself? Yes, I'm embarrassed. I mean, to be 2-6? There's nothing fun about being 2-6. Especially, when you go out there and you put it all on the line to try to win ball games, yet for whatever reason you can't find a way to win games."
They have lost six of the past seven games and continue to grope to find a way out and how to describe what got them here.
"It's tough," said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, "because we know we're a good team with a bad record. It's frustrating out there right now."
Halfback Willie Parker said after their most recent loss Sunday to Denver that he sensed a "hungrier" team last season than this one and a lack of trust in teammates. He declined to talk yesterday.
"If that's what he thinks, so be it," said Ward, a co-captain on offense. "But you'd have to ask Willie about that.
"I can't speak for other guys, I only speak for myself. I know me, it doesn't matter what happened last year, you have to move on."
Other teammates disavowed any connection to a Super Bowl hangover.