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Old 11-19-2006, 09:05 AM   #1
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Default Collier: Playoffs? Playoffs? How about 2 wins in the same month

Collier: Playoffs? Playoffs? How about 2 wins in the same month
Sunday, November 19, 2006

By Gene Collier, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Late November generally isn't the time for this little bit of Steelers housekeeping, but it's gotta be done eventually, or at least you'd expect so.

How about getting two wins in the same calendar month?

Such is the alleged achievement available this afternoon at lakeside, where Bill Cowher's 3-6 team stands gazing at its warped funhouse-mirror image in the Cleveland Browns, who would only too gleefully officiate over the last extinguishing glimmer of hope for the defending Super Bowl champions.

The Steelers' margin for error: still zero.

"For me personally, always being confronted and critiqued by family and friends around Pittsburgh, I've got to play like there's no margin for error all the time," said Steelers safety and McKeesport native Mike Logan after a wet, cold practice ended preparations. "But from a team aspect, you know, this town is the city of champions. We gave them a good dose of that last year bringing home a Super Bowl victory, but they expect nothing less."

Which is why, of course, this entire sorry Steelers season continues to play like an endless loop of "Weekend at Bernie's."

Attention is still dutifully paid, insane levels of media coverage persist, drinks still flow and party trays disappear from tailgate to the tail end of the postgame show, the music still plays, but at the focal point as raison' d'etre, Bernie is, after all, dead.

"Hopefully, the city hasn't given up," said linebacker Chad Brown, who has long been familiar with Pittsburgh's emotional requirements. "I don't think the team thinks it's next year already. Now, it's not time to be talking about playoffs; I mean, win two games in a row first."

Brown was asked if this team would even make itself aware of such hopeful minutia as what the Bengals and the Ravens are doing this weekend.

"You can look at it," he said. "But there's nothing you can do about it. It's wasted energy."

True dat. But let's waste some. I've got nothing to do.

The Steelers trail the first-place Ravens in the AFC North by four games with seven to play, two of which are against the Ravens. The Ravens play host to the churlish Falcons this afternoon while the 4-5 Bengals, the only other team ahead of the Steelers in the division, travels to New Orleans to deal with the equally hacked off Saints.

As it happens, the Ravens now begin what might be a difficult stretch (Atlanta, Pittsburgh, at Cincinnati, at Kansas City) just as the Steelers start a four-week period in which three games are against the Browns and the 2-7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The remaining Bengals schedule is by far the most difficult of the divisional rivals, and includes appointments at Indianapolis and Denver.

If, between now and New Year's Eve, Baltimore went 2-5, the Bengals 3-4, and the Steelers 6-1 , Pittsburgh would win the division provided two of those wins were against the Ravens, the first opportunity for which is next week in Maryland.

I can tell you with at least the appearance of perfect plausibility how all of that can happen, but I can't tell you with every confidence that the Steelers will even be 4-6 by 4 o'clock today, because even with all the salty emotion spent in last week's inspiring pregame speechifying by a phalanx of players, the Steelers still went out and gave up 31 points. Dick LeBeau's banged up defense thus joined the other phases as demonstrably suspect.

"I'm concerned about it; I don't like it," Cowher said this week. "Some of it has been field position and we have to do a better job in the red zone of holding people to field goals instead of touchdowns. I have a lot of confidence that we'll do that. This team will be a challenge, and we've given up way too many points in the last few weeks."

These flock of Browns has begun to grow under second-year coach Romeo Crennel, having just beaten the Jets and the Falcons around a seven-point loss to the 7-2 Chargers, but recent history sharply favors the Steelers, who are overdue for a road win at a venue where they are 6-1 since the opening of Cleveland Brown Stadium.

Cowher, 17-5 all-time against the Browns, has beaten Cleveland 11 of the past 12.

"Nobody around here has a given-up attitude," Logan said. "I encourage people to believe, and people encourage me to believe. That's the mentality of this city."

Good to know, at least until next week. You don't want to be left with nothing to ponder over a season's last six weeks beyond whether third-string quarterback Brian St. Pierre will set a new NFL record for most times on and off the same roster in one season.

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Old 11-19-2006, 09:08 AM   #2
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Default Re: Collier: Playoffs? Playoffs? How about 2 wins in the same month

One game at a time!
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Old 11-19-2006, 11:00 AM   #3
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Default Re: Collier: Playoffs? Playoffs? How about 2 wins in the same month

Cowher is taking it the right way. Don't worry about the playoffs. Let the wins take care of the playoffs.

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