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Old 09-27-2005, 11:59 PM   #1
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Thumbs down Ken W. is not a happy camper

Steelers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt has many options at his disposal.

His unit is ranked sixth overall in the league, featuring the NFL's top-rated quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger, the No. 3 rusher in Willie Parker, the No. 3 scorer in Hines Ward, and two wideouts in Ward and Antwaan Randle El who rank among the top 10 in receiving yards.

Moreover, Roethlisberger is one of two starters who has yet to throw and interception.

Whisenhunt, however, is dissatisfied.

He's dissatisfied because of his unit's breakdown in Sunday's 23-20 loss to the Patriots at Heinz Field.

The Steelers could not run the ball (AFC rushing leader Parker was held to 55 yards on 17 carries); they couldn't convert third downs (3 of 13); they made a number of ill-advised plays, including a failed lateral from Randle El to Ward; and the offensive line got beat up front.

The Steelers finished with just 269 yards (79 rushing, 190 net passing), went 1 of 3 in the red zone and controlled the ball for just 24:37.

"We just didn't play good, bottom line," said Whisenhunt. "It wasn't a question of what New England was doing. We just had too many breakdowns individually that led to bad plays."

The Patriots, who set up in a 4-3 defense much of the game, were not particularly complex in what they did. They blitzed at times, but, more importantly, they outmuscled the Steelers.

"They weren't even playing any schemes," Whisenhunt said. "We just didn't play good. Sometimes, that happens."

Whisenhunt has 12 days to cure what ailed his offense. The Steelers don't play again until Monday night, Oct. 10, in San DieSgo. He'll likely look closely at Roethlisberger, who had a higher passer rating than the Patriots' Tom Brady (93.8 to 92.7), but Roethlisberger missed on more than 50 percent of his passes for just the third time in his career, and threw incomplete on six third-down opportunities that ended drives.

Roethlisberger is not to blame for all of the failed execution on third down -- Randle El missed a perfect pass to open the third quarter - though he had more than his share of off-target attempts, a rarity by his counterpart, Brady.

Roethlisberger was sacked four times, a number that could have doubled if not for his agility. But he also got antsy, at times, being chased Richard Seymour, Vince Wilfork and Willie McGinest regularly. That forced him to leave the pocket too quickly on occasion or to throw off-target.

"He has to understand where his check-downs are sometimes," Whisenhunt said of Roethlisberger. "But we can't take away what he does."

The Patriots took away the Steelers running game by winning in the trenches. Whisenhunt could add some power to that rushing attack with Duce Staley and Jerome Bettis. Staley made his first appearance of the season Sunday, and Bettis, inactive all season, should be ready to play in San Diego.

"We'll have to see how that works out," Whisenhunt said. "I think Verron (Haynes) and Willie have been playing well. The thing you do know is that Duce and Jerome are good players and you have to get them involved."

Asked what he plans to do in helping his offense regroup, Whisenhunt was quick with an answer.

"I don't think it has anything to do with me . It's those guys, they have pride in what they do," he said. "You can look at me and say, 'What can I do better?' Maybe I didn't put us in the best situations I could. But it's one game. They've been playing well the first two games. You have to believe in what you're doing and stick with that."
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