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Old 12-18-2006, 04:40 AM   #1
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Default Revived and still relevant

By John Harris
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Monday, December 18, 2006


CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Two games to go, and the Steelers' fading playoff hopes are still alive.
Mind you, the Steelers remain on life support, and someone accidentally kicked the plug out of the socket, but the body's still warm, the pulse ever so faint.

What's the point in the Steelers' playing like the season still matters?

This is the point: Steelers 37, Panthers 3.

Sunday's impressive, 34-point win matters, and the Steelers' season still matters.

The Steelers won a Super Bowl last season, and this year it's likely they will miss the playoffs, but the coach is coaching like the season still matters, and his players have never played better.

Forget, if you must, that the Steelers have been mystifyingly bad at times, trying the considerable patience of coach Bill Cowher. But the players never lost the concept of team, family and country, and Cowher never gave up on them.

"We've always taken that approach during the last few weeks these last two years," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "It's one game at a time. Every week is the biggest game of the year."

Indeed. The proof is in the blowout victory at Bank of America Stadium, where the 7-7 Steelers won their third consecutive game and fifth in six weeks.

The Steelers are so hot, you needed to wear asbestos gloves to shake inside linebacker James Farrior's hand in the locker room after the game.

"The key to the whole thing is Coach Cowher instilled in this team the mindset we have to have," said Farrior, who led the defensive cavalry charge with a team-high eight tackles and added one sack. "We started off and dug ourselves a big hole. Right now, it's just playing one game at a time. Whatever opponent we have in front of us, that's our whole focus. I think it shows in our preparation during the week and in practice. It's definitely showing up on Sunday."

The Steelers showed up yesterday and showed out.

They've gone from the team their own coach didn't recognize to the opponent no one wants to face.

The Steelers may be a .500 team, but they see a 9-7 finish in the immediate future.

"I don't think we were mathematically eliminated today. If we're still in it, we're going to keep playing," said Cowher, whose team concludes the season against AFC North rivals Baltimore and Cincinnati.

"We've been there before. We've played on the road in December, and we've played on the road in January. This football team knows that mindset that you have to have."

Cowher set the tone. He was hell-bent on keeping the Steelers together in what became an unexpected season of transition.

He stressed order and organization, team over individual. His veterans already know the drill. But for the rookies and newcomers, it was important to emphasize the need to report to practice and work hard every day, to try to win every game, quarter and play, and give maximum effort at all times, even when the team was at its lowest.

Defensive end Aaron Smith said the players understood the ebb and flow of the season would eventually favor the Steelers.

"There was no reason to deviate. We just weren't getting the bounces we usually get," Smith said of the Steelers' 2-6 start. "We knew if we just kept working hard, sooner or later, things would start going our way."

That said, it remains highly unlikely the Steelers will qualify for the playoffs, 9-7 or no 9-7.

"We still have life, even though we're hanging on the respirator right now," Farrior said.

The Steelers' great finish may not be enough to overcome their poor start.

"We put ourselves in the situation we are in," outside linebacker Joey Porter said. "The tough thing about it is having your playoff hopes in somebody else's hands."

The Steelers lost their way this season, but now they're back. They're giving themselves a chance to win every game by playing their best football, which is all Cowher ever wanted.
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Old 12-18-2006, 01:25 PM   #2
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Default Re: Revived and still relevant

5 - 1 in our last 6. But 2 - 6 in the first half is just a HUGE deficit to overcome. The Atlanta and Oakland games will be the ones we look back on and groan.
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Old 12-18-2006, 02:24 PM   #3
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Default Re: Revived and still relevant

Quote:
Originally Posted by BigDuke6 View Post
5 - 1 in our last 6. But 2 - 6 in the first half is just a HUGE deficit to overcome. The Atlanta and Oakland games will be the ones we look back on and groan.
It's just so frustrating how this team could be at least 8-6 probably even 9-5.
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