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11-29-2006, 07:58 AM
Steelers playing for pride

By Scott Brown
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Wednesday, November 29, 2006


No Troy Polamalu, no Hines Ward, no real incentive for the Steelers if pride is indeed an outdated notion in the megabucks world of professional sports.

The Steelers limped home from Baltimore in every way imaginable after a 27-0 loss to the Ravens.

The only consolation the defending Super Bowl champs can take into Sunday's game against Tampa Bay is the Buccaneers may actually be worse off than they are.

And that's saying something, considering the Steelers are 4-7 and without much hope -- or Polamalu and Ward, for that matter.

Polamalu sprained a ligament in his left knee this past Sunday and is out for the 4:15 p.m. game at Heinz Field. The knee injury isn't as serious as originally feared, Steelers coach Bill Cowher said Tuesday, and it won't require surgery.

Ward had surgery Monday to remove what Cowher called "two loose bodies," and he could also be out for next Thursday's game against the Browns because it is a short week.

Nate Washington will start in Ward's place against the Buccaneers, and backup split end Santonio Holmes will also work some at flanker this week at practice.

Tyrone Carter will fill in for Polamalu at strong safety, Cowher said, and rookie free safety Anthony Smith will get increased playing time when the Steelers employ their dime package.

Despite the loss of two of the Steelers' best players, Cowher said the game against the 3-8 Buccaneers "can't get here fast enough."

It is easy to see why.

The Steelers got drilled by the Ravens, and the loss all but eliminated them from playoff contention.

The most perplexing thing about their uninspired play is it came against their most bitter rival.

It also came in a game the Steelers had to win to get themselves back into playoff contention.

"It was a surprising game from the standpoint that I thought we had a good week of work," Cowher said at his weekly news conference. "It was a game that got out of hand early. I don't think they're 27 points better than we are, but they were last Sunday."

Cowher said he told his players Monday not to "dwell" on the loss.

"This is a team that has won two out of its last three games, and I'm not going to let one game define who we are," Cowher said. "(Reporters) are entitled to whatever judgments you want to make. But in my mind, one game does not define this football team."

The team that entered the season with high -- make that Super -- expectations now has little for which to play.

Where the Steelers go from here has become a subject of considerable conjecture.

They have to win four of their last five games just to be a .500 team, and they appear to be prime candidates for a collapse, given how the season has gone awry.

"If you're in this business, and you have a passion for this business, you will never accept (losing)," Cowher said. "With our football team and where we are, the expectations that we've had, it becomes trying. It becomes very revealing as well."

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_481842.html