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Old 11-06-2006, 10:33 AM   #1
Big D
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Default Steelers Nation in shock over dismal start

PITTSBURGH -- As the defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers slogged their way to the players' tunnel Sunday, their record having sunk to an unfathomable 2-6, a most appropriate song blared through the Heinz Field loudspeakers.

It was Daniel Powter's "Bad Day."

You're standin' in line just to hit a new low
You're fakin' a smile with the coffee to go
Tell me your life's been way off line
You're fallin' to pieces every time




Jason Bridge/US PRESSWIRE
Bill Cowher and the Steelers fell to 2-6 on the season.Powter's piano riffs were interspersed with some jeers, like one from a fan who yelled, "Hey Cowher, leave now!" but the general mood in the half-empty stadium was one of shock and despair, not anger.

Something felt amiss even before the dreadful, 31-20 loss to the Denver Broncos. Radio analyst Tunch Ilkin, a former Steelers player, put words to it early in the broadcast on WDVE FM-102.5.

It was as if everyone was waiting for something bad to happen.

"It seemed kind of quiet in the parking lot, quiet in the stands," Ilkin said on the air. "I don't know, it's just way too quiet in this stadium."

As the nightmare unfolded -- the Steelers played like the Buffalo Bills in a Super Bowl, fumbling six times and losing three -- Ilkin spoke for every fan in the city when he said, "This is unbelievable. It's like a bad dream. It started early in the year, and it just keeps getting worse."

The Steelers fell to pieces for the third consecutive week and are off to the worst start of any Super Bowl champion since the 1987 New York Giants, who started 1-6 in a strike year.

How bad is it? The only team with a worse record is the 1-7 Arizona Cardinals.

"All these turnovers, it's basic football," said Dale Riley, a 20-year season-ticket holder who walked quietly toward his car. "This can't go on."

And what of coach Bill Cowher, who has done nothing to debunk rumors that he will retire after the season to his new, $2.5 million house in Raleigh, N.C.?

Some fans believe Cowher's uncertain status has something to do with his team's incredibly undisciplined play. Linebacker James Farrior was assessed a personal foul yesterday for kicking Broncos center Tom Nalen. It was one of two personal-foul calls the Steelers, who have made a habit of committing mindless infractions this season.

That includes one for a group celebration in a loss to Atlanta two weeks ago, only three games after Cowher said such a penalty -- which the Steelers were flagged for in a loss to Cincinnati -- "will never happen again."

"I think Cowher needs to sit down and have a big talk with somebody," Riley said.

Others believe the Steelers have abandoned their bread-and-butter running game.

"Cowher hasn't stuck with the Pittsburgh game plan," said longtime fan Bryson Wesley, decked out in a Ben Roethlisberger jersey. "He's not running the ball enough."

Bottom line: The playoffs are now a pipe dream. The only team who started this bad and made the playoffs was the 1970 Cincinnati Bengals, who were 1-6 before winning their final seven games and the old AFC Central.

"I would have bet my house that this wouldn't have happened," said Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton. "I'd be homeless right now."

Cowher's coaching and Roethlisberger's uncharacteristically poor play have been the topics du jour in the Steel City, which was celebrating the Steelers' fifth Super Bowl title just nine months ago.

Roethlisberger completed 38 of 54 passes for 433 yards and a spectacular, scrambling touchdown pass Sunday. He broke the team record for completions and set a personal-high for yards. But he also threw three interceptions, one by Champ Bailey at the Broncos' 3-yard line, and might have had five or six if the Broncos hadn't dropped a few.

Roethlisberger, who also fumbled near the Steelers' goal line (teammate Alan Faneca recovered), came into the season with a career record of 27-4. He's 1-6 this year. Some local media polls last week indicated a majority of fans wanted backup Charlie Batch to start against Denver.

Fans have been wondering if Roethlisberger's problems are related to his near-fatal motorcycle in June, his emergency appendectomy in September and/or his concussion two weeks ago against the Falcons.

"I think the poor kid's a little star-struck," Wesley said. "They shouldn't have played him last week against Oakland. Now, his mindset's a little bit on the screwed-up side."

Roethlisberger is more than willing to accept the blame.

"It's one of those days, one of those seasons," he said. "Next week (at home against New Orleans) is our playoffs. That's how we have to look at it.

The notion that fans have heaped Roethlisberger with abuse is unfounded. If anything, people at the stadium have, like Cowher, supported the quarterback. Roethlisberger wasn't booed, despite a performance that would have prompted fans to positively torture Tommy Maddox, Kordell Stewart, Neil O'Donnell and a lot of other guys who've played quarterback for the Steelers.

Bailey was asked if Big Ben looked to be anything like the guy who burned Denver in the AFC Championship Game last year.

"He looked the same, a little, but he was throwing up a lot of balls he shouldn't have thrown," Bailey said. "We just took advantage of those and kept going."

Steelers running back Willie Parker complimented the fans for sticking with the team. Like them, he can't quite believe what he's seeing.

"Yeah, I'm stunned," Parker said. "But we had our highs. Now, it's time to deal with our lows. Can you smile after a defeat? Not really. I can't smile ... but I can fake it."

Joe Starkey covers the Steelers for the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.


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Old 11-06-2006, 11:19 AM   #2
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Default Re: Steelers Nation in shock over dismal start

For all of the glory and joy the Steelers brought last year it's almost as if the Football Gods are playing a cruel joke by seeing how horrible they can make this season.

Last season is last season but in the future when Steeler fans look back and talk about the Superbowl XL Championship there's no way you can leave out talking about the absolutely pathetic season they had the year after.
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Old 11-06-2006, 11:27 AM   #3
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Default Re: Steelers Nation in shock over dismal start

If we were losing these games, and we sucked, I would not be as mad. But look at our team. We have so much talent, all gone to waste because of turnovers. It's like a Ferari with no ****ing gas in it.
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Old 11-06-2006, 12:10 PM   #4
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Default Re: Steelers Nation in shock over dismal start

Cowher has to take the hit for this at some point. The STs, the turnovers, stupid penalties, lack of discipline. These are all things the coach needs to take the hit for.
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Old 11-06-2006, 01:22 PM   #5
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Default Re: Steelers Nation in shock over dismal start

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It's like a Ferari with no ****ing gas in it.


We've got plenty of gas, we just keep pouring it out on the turnpike!!!!!
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Old 11-06-2006, 02:52 PM   #6
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Default Re: Steelers Nation in shock over dismal start

I'm starting to hear more and more that several Steelers sensed early on in camp that they lost their hunger this year .... lost the edge.
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Old 11-06-2006, 02:53 PM   #7
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Default Re: Steelers Nation in shock over dismal start

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Originally Posted by Infamix View Post
If we were losing these games, and we sucked, I would not be as mad. But look at our team. We have so much talent, all gone to waste because of turnovers. It's like a Ferari with no ****ing gas in it.


I think you nailed just how I feel
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Old 11-06-2006, 03:01 PM   #8
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Default Re: Steelers Nation in shock over dismal start

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I think you nailed just how I feel
I second that man. This is an absolute stunner.
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Old 11-06-2006, 03:40 PM   #9
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Default Re: Steelers Nation in shock over dismal start

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Originally Posted by Infamix View Post
If we were losing these games, and we sucked, I would not be as mad. But look at our team. We have so much talent, all gone to waste because of turnovers. It's like a Ferari with no ****ing gas in it.
That's a good way to put it -- nobody is really beating us -- The Broncos supposedly have the best run stop Defense in the league -- Willie and Najeh could have put up 100 each against that Defense yesterday - eliminate the TOs and we are competitive with anybody in the league...
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Old 11-06-2006, 04:29 PM   #10
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Default Re: Steelers Nation in shock over dismal start

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That's a good way to put it -- nobody is really beating us -- The Broncos supposedly have the best run stop Defense in the league -- Willie and Najeh could have put up 100 each against that Defense yesterday - eliminate the TOs and we are competitive with anybody in the league...
I guess that's what makes it so shocking. Every game is like that. We oughtta kill these jokers we're playing against! It's really that it JUST WONT STOP. when? when will it end?
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