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Old 11-17-2006, 04:55 AM   #1
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Default Steelers getting reacquainted with AFC North

By ALAN ROBINSON
AP Sports Writer

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Until now, the Pittsburgh Steelers could have been forgiven for forgetting they belong to the AFC North.

They have played four games against the AFC West, two against the NFC South and one each against the AFC South and AFC East this season, yet a 28-20 loss to Cincinnati represents their only division game.

In the last 11 months, they've faced division teams only three times in 17 games, and one of those was a playoff game against the Bengals.

If the Steelers don't remember what it's like going up against the Browns, Ravens and Bengals, they are about to get reacquainted with them. Five of their final seven games are in the division, including two games in 19 days against the Browns and two against the Ravens.

With a 3-6 record, no one needs to remind the Steelers they probably must sweep all five games - including road games against all three division opponents - to make anything of their surprisingly bad season.

They play Sunday at Cleveland (3-6), where they won 41-0 on Christmas Eve a year ago, then face AFC North leader Baltimore (7-2) on the road a week later.

"Every game we've got to win to have any chance, so every game is a big game," center Jeff Hartings said.

One problem for the Steelers is they are 0-4 on the road after going 4-0 away from Pittsburgh in the playoffs last season. Their last regular-season road victory was at Cleveland last year.

"I like playing up in Cleveland," defensive end Brett Keisel said. "If you can't get up for rival teams, division teams, then there's something wrong with you. It's going to be a tough game."

This season, the Steelers have lost 9-0 at Jacksonville, 23-13 at San Diego, 41-38 at Atlanta in overtime and 20-13 at Oakland in one of their biggest upset losses in Bill Cowher's 15 seasons as coach. They were 6-2 in regular season road games last year and 9-2 overall on the road, not counting the neutral site Super Bowl in Detroit.

"We have yet to show we can win on the road - and we have to go out there and continue doing that, keep fighting, taking their crowd out of it and not turning the ball over," wide receiver Hines Ward said.

The Steelers also haven't won successive games, following a pattern of winning one and losing three. They beat the New Orleans Saints 38-31 last Sunday despite squandering a 14-0 lead.

Because of Baltimore's four-game lead over them in the division, the Steelers understand they're given almost no chance of returning to the playoffs, much less contending for the Super Bowl again. It was the same role they assumed going into last season's playoffs as the AFC's sixth-seeded team.

"We're still fighting because we still think we're in it," linebacker Joey Porter said. "We're going to go out there and play Sunday like we're still in the chase to try to make a playoff run."

The Steelers expect a much closer game in Cleveland than last season, when Ben Roethlisberger threw for a touchdown and Willie Parker had an 80-yard TD run as the Steelers opened a 27-0 lead early in the third quarter.

This time, Roethlisberger goes against an improved Browns secondary that has permitted the sixth-fewest passing yards in the league. Last week, the Browns limited the Falcons' Michael Vick to 197 yards passing on 40 attempts in a 17-13 Cleveland victory; Vick threw for 232 yards and four touchdowns against Pittsburgh.

"It's something they've done a good job of this year, keeping the quarterback contained, and I would expect a lot of the same thing this week," Roethlisberger said.

The Browns don't defend the run nearly as well, ranking third from the bottom in rushing yards allowed. Parker had 130 yards in his only previous career start against them.
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Old 11-17-2006, 02:25 PM   #2
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Default Re: Steelers getting reacquainted with AFC North

We may be getting reacquainted with them, but we will never forget how much we hate them, and want to whip their butts.
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Old 11-17-2006, 02:32 PM   #3
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Default Re: Steelers getting reacquainted with AFC North

I never forget the rest of the AFC North is around, especially when I look at the standings and *puke* *choke* see a team who can't smell where the Steelers shit last at the top of the division and a won-year wonder in second place ahead of us.

This Sunday, the journey continues. Here's cheering on our Steelers to step up to the task of proving that they own the AFC North hands without a shadow of a doubt.
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