View Full Version : Steelers the prime targets

10-22-2006, 07:55 AM
By Scott Brown
Sunday, October 22, 2006

Bill Cowher called the Steelers' 45-7 win over Kansas City last Sunday an "aberration."
The Steelers coach referred to his team's margin of victory. He just as easily could have been talking about the lackluster play of the Chiefs, who apparently were still on central time when the 4:15 p.m. game kicked off at Heinz Field.

Winning the Super Bowl means many things for the players, but along with endorsements and increased exposure comes internal pressure.

And then there is what comes from the outside.

Teams become targets when they carry the title of World Champions, and the Steelers have found that out during a 2-3 start and especially during a three-game losing streak that preceded the win over the Chiefs.

What it means is the Steelers should expect to see the team that dominated the Carolina Panthers in its season opener, not the one that got run over by the New York Giants last week, when they visit the Atlanta Falcons today for a 1 p.m. game.

"We definitely know that every team's gunning for us, and nobody wants to see a back-to-back champion," Steelers linebacker James Farrior said. "So we're going to get everybody's best effort. We understand that."

Do they?

No one on the Steelers' 53-man roster had played on a Super Bowl-winning team before last season.

That raises the question of whether the Steelers might have gotten off to a better start if they had players who have been through what the team is experiencing this season.

"Going through it a second time, I imagine you would handle it better than the first time," said Tampa Bay linebacker Derrick Brooks, whose team won the 2003 Super Bowl but finished 7-9 the following season.

"It doesn't matter," former Pro Bowl running back Marshall Faulk said bluntly.

Faulk played for the St. Louis Rams, who stormed to a world championship in 1999. He experienced what he said cannot be explained -- teams playing with more focus and intensity against a defending champion - in the first two games of the 2000 season.

In one of them, the Seattle Seahawks gave the Rams everything they could handle before falling, 37-34. The Seahawks finished 6-10 that season.

"Teams are not making that crucial mistake they probably would make if you weren't the Super Bowl champions," said Faulk, who is now an analyst for the NFL Network.

And in a league that considers parity a precious commodity, a couple of plays in a game can mean the difference between winning and losing.

So too can one team maybe wanting the game just a bit more than the other one.

"I always say this. If you have $20 million in the bank, can you truly go out and act like you have nothing?" CBS analyst and former Super Bowl-winning quarterback Phil Simms said. "Complacency is not the word. I'm just trying to tell you how hard it is to be desperate."

Desperation fueled the Steelers' 4-0 finish in last year's regular season, and the team went on to win four more games and the fifth Super Bowl in franchise history.

Unlike some that went on to repeat as Super Bowl champions, the Steelers do not have overwhelming talent like the Dallas Cowboys in the early 1990s or the teams that were stacked with future Hall of Famers and twice delivered back-to-back championships to Pittsburgh in the 1970s.

That is not to say that the Steelers have no chance of defending their title, just that holding that title of world champion makes it that much more difficult.

"You have to believe in yourself," Buccaneers running back Michael Pittman said. "We did, but sometimes teams that are putting it all into that game - to beat the champions, beat the Buccaneers - that's all they need to make them play better, play harder, be more motivated and try to knock you off that perch."

"Yeah, we're finding that out," Steelers running back Willie Parker said. "I watched Jacksonville play (against Washington), and I was like 'Look at them now.' They just looked all bad. When they played us, they looked like they could be champs, at least in the AFC. I didn't get it."

It seemed to make as much sense as opening a winter clothing store in Jacksonville.

A Jaguars defense that shut out the Steelers in a 9-0 win got torched for 36 points in a loss to the Redskins, who are 2-4 and were beaten by the lowly Tennessee Titans last week.

Not that Parker can say he wasn't warned.

He worked out with some of the Buccaneers during the offseason in the Tampa area.

"They said you're basically like everybody's Homecoming," Parker said in reference to away games. "If they come to your house it's about a statement. You're going to get everybody's best shot."

And when teams succumb to such shots, it is magnified in this era of media overkill.

Simms couldn't help but shake his head when everyone from bloggers to fellow TV analysts left the Steelers for dead after a 1-3 start.

"Is the season over? Could they have said that enough on TV?" Simms said. "There's not enough writers in Hollywood to get this kind of drama every week."

The Steelers figure to find themselves starring in more drama before the season is over.

That is simply the way it is for reigning Super Bowl champions.

That and teams coming after them, with the Chiefs being the notable exception to this point.

"It's new for everybody," wide receiver Hines Ward said. "I remember when we played New England (in 2002 and last season). Regardless of the record, we really wanted to be them because they were the champions, and that's kind of the feeling that we're getting right now."

They better get used to it.

10-22-2006, 09:56 AM
nice read. i dont think we are targets, we are just a top team and people know we will run over them if they dont prepare very well.

10-22-2006, 11:04 AM
:tt02: WHEN YOU ARE SUPER BOWL CHAMPS Everyone is gonna be shooting to beat the Champs... so everyone in SteelersFanVille... get used to it...Isnt it a Great Feeling?:helmet: