Steelers vow to turn season around after loss to Titans
By F. Dale Lolley
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Maybe they were just trying to convince themselves the sky isn’t falling. Or maybe they still believe they can turn things around.
But there wasn’t any panic in the Steelers locker room following Thursday night’s latest come-from-ahead loss, 26-23, to the Tennessee Titans at LP Stadium.
Following their latest road debacle, the Steelers were full of bluster about how they were going to turn things around.
“Ten games from now, we’re going to be laughing, and everybody is going to forget about this,” said linebacker Larry Foote.
“If this is the worst that can happen, we’ll be all right,” said offensive tackle Max Starks. “The adversity is here. As long as we overcome it, it’ll make us a better team in the end.”
Or maybe not.
Now 2-3, including an 0-3 record on the road, the Steelers look a lot closer to the 2009 team that lost five consecutive games down the stretch to miss the playoffs, than it does the 2005 team that won its final four games after a threegame losing streak to get into the playoffs and win the Super Bowl.
With all three losses having come to AFC opponents, the Steelers have made things awfully difficult on themselves a month and a half into the season.
“We (don’t) have a lot of room for error now,” admitted Starks. “I’ve been through this. I’ve been here a long time, been through a lot worse situations at more critical points of the season. It’s still early, and that’s one of the biggest things we have on our side. There’s still some time, but we have to be vigilant. We can’t be careless with that time.”
Fixing the problems that have plagued the Steelers might be a different issue.
First, they have to narrow down exactly what is wrong.
“Man, if I knew how to fix it, it would already be fixed,” said nose tackle Casey Hampton. “The biggest thing is that we’ve just got to get back to playing football the way we know how.”
The common denominator in the three road losses has been an inability for the defense to hold a fourth quarter lead.
On Thursday night, the Steelers turned a 16-10 halftime deficit into a 23-16 lead midway through the fourth quarter. They then allowed the Titans (2-4) to march 80 yards on 11 plays to score on a five-yard pass from Matt Hasselbeck to Kenny Britt, who was working against Ike Taylor.
In fact, the Titans picked on Taylor throughout the game, and he allowed eight completions on 13 pass attempts for 126 yards and a touchdown. He also was called for three penalties – one was declined. The biggest Taylor penalty was a defensive hold on third down that allowed the Titans to go for the game-tying touchdown rather than a field goal.
“We’re going to see what we’re made of,” said Foote. “We’re dealing with some adversity right now, 2-3, everybody has written us off – even before the season, so nothing has changed.
“All of the answers are in this locker room to get this thing turned around.”
But the solutions are dwindling because of a number of injuries.
While the Steelers expect linebacker LaMarr Woodley – who missed Thursday’s game with a hamstring injury – back when they travel to Cincinnati Oct. 21, strong safety Troy Polamalu is expected to miss at least the next two games with a calf injury.
And the Steelers had a rash of injuries against the Titans, losing running backs Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles’ tendon) and Isaac Redman (ankle), and offensive linemen Maurkice Pouncey (MCL sprain) and Marcus Gilbert (ankle).
Pouncey’s injury is considered the most serious at this point and could sideline him for at least the game at Cincinnati.
Regardless of who lines up in Cincinnati, the Steelers need their road nightmares to end.
“It’s not a dream – it’s reality,” said safety Ryan Clark. “You’ve just got to make stops, period.”
Odds and end zones
The Steelers released tight end Wes Saunders Friday. Saunders had been suspended the first four games of the season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. … Redman’s 105 yards receiving marked the first 100-yard receiving game for a Steelers running back since Frenchy Fuqua did in against Cleveland in 1970.