What does a 1-2 start mean for Steelers?
By Scott Brown
Sunday, October 8, 2006
A division surfaced in the Steelers' locker room this week.
Not that it should be a concern to coach Bill Cowher.
There just seemed to be a difference of opinion among the players about what a 1-2 start means for the Steelers.
Some said they shouldn't drastically alter their approach while others have said the Steelers must adopt the mindset that they are in a must-win situation, starting with tonight's nationally-televised game in San Diego.
"I kind of feel like we should be in desperation mode," center Jeff Hartings said. "Last year, desperation mode helped us focus and win four in a row, and with the AFC being the way it is, we've got to win a lot of the games that we play from this point on."
All of the Steelers seem to agree they will play with a sense of urgency against the 2-1 Chargers as they try to notch their first victory in a month.
The Chargers have the top-ranked pass defense in the NFL and are second against the run.
A stout, attacking defense is not the only thing the Chargers have in common with their East Coast visitors.
They also like to run the football with LaDainian Tomlinson, one of the top backs in the NFL, and use it to set up a passing game that is triggered by first-year starting quarterback Philip Rivers.
The teams that are similar in style played a close game last year in San Diego, and the Steelers needed a late 40-yard field goal by Jeff Reed to pull out a 24-22 win.
No one would be surprised if the rematch isn't decided until the final seconds of the game.
"I think it's going to be a very physical football game with a team that likes to run the football in them and a team that likes to run the ball in us," Steelers coach Bill Cowher said. "The team that makes the fewest mistakes will probably come out on top."
That means the Steelers have to take better care of the football.
The defending Super Bowl champions have committed eight turnovers in three games.
The Steelers have rushed for more than 100 yards in two of their three games but the passing attack has faltered since Ben Roethlisberger returned as the starting quarterback.
Roethlisberger, who missed the season opener because of an emergency appendectomy, has had trouble getting the ball to his wide receivers, though he said the extra practice time the Steelers got because of the bye week has helped his timing with them.
"As much as people may not want to believe this I think we've been playing pretty well offensively," said Roethlisberger, who has completed just under 50 percent of his passes and been intercepted five times. "There's been a couple of mistakes that have been made that really hurt, but overall we're just about a hair off on offense."
A Chargers defense led by linebacker Shawne Merriman (four sacks) won't make things any easier for Roethlisberger and Co.
The Steelers are well aware that another loss this early in the season would leave them with a frighteningly small margin for error.
"We should still have our eyes set on home-field advantage," Hartings said, "not just getting in the playoffs."