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Old 12-18-2007, 07:04 AM   #1
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Default Time running short for Steelers to shake funk

Time running short for Steelers to shake funk
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The parts continued to fly off what had been an AFC North machine, and the Steelers somehow need to find the key again before Thursday night's game in St. Louis.

Three more starters likely were lost, ground up by Jacksonville on way to a dominant 29-22 victory Sunday at Heinz Field.

Left tackle Marvel Smith has a bad back, outside linebacker Clark Haggans has a sprained knee, and defensive end Travis Kirschke has rib cartilage damage.

The harm done to the Steelers' psyche by the bullies from Jacksonville and New England the previous week might not be evident until the smoke clears at the end of the season. But this much is known: While the Steelers still don't necessarily need help to get into the playoffs or to win the division title, they need to snap out of the funk they've been in since losing to the New York Jets to start their current 2-3 stretch.

"We don't have time to think about our heads," linebacker Larry Foote said of the collective mental state of his ballclub. "We better just win to get in this tournament."

A victory against Jacksonville would have clinched at least a wild-card spot. A win Thursday night will not.

They still would need Tennessee to lose or tie at home to the Jets for a wild-card spot, or Cleveland to lose at Cincinnati for the division title.

A playoff spot could very well hinge on the outcome of their regular-season finale Dec. 30 at Baltimore.

They could lose in St. Louis and still would make the playoffs or even win the division title at Baltimore.

"In terms of playoff picture, we determine that by how we play," coach Mike Tomlin said yesterday.

That has not been particularly well the past five games. Since their 39-7 blowout victory against Baltimore on a rainy Nov. 5, nothing has come easy.

They followed with a 31-28 comeback victory at home against Cleveland to go 7-2, and it looked then as if they would compete for a No. 2 seed and a playoff bye.

But the loss to the Jets, a 3-0 victory against the then-winless Dolphins at home and back-to-back losses after a win against Cincinnati have put their playoff chances in a more precarious position at 9-5.

Tomlin presented a much calmer front at his news conference yesterday than the angry young coach shortly after the loss to Jacksonville.

Again, he put it on his own players and not what the Jaguars did as the reason for their loss.

On offense, he said "a lot of the adversity was self-induced," including penalties. On defense, he noted an inability to sack the quarterback despite good early pressure -- the Steelers have no sacks in the past two games, one in the past three.

"Defensively, we were not able to stop those guys from running the football," Tomlin said. "They played our style of football. They did it better than we did.

"Sometimes, you think there are some mystical solutions. And, really, there aren't. It's fundamental football and your ability to do it under duress."

Tomlin did acknowledge, surprisingly, that his defense might lack some confidence. They've allowed 63 points in the past two games although they still lead the NFL in total yards allowed.

"I'm sure it's a factor, but we have to shake that element of it off," Tomlin said.

He also said the perception of his 9-5 team might be based on its quick start to the season.

"Do we feel good about where we are right now? Absolutely not. Would we feel better if we had started the season 1-4 instead of 4-1 and were sitting here at 9-5? We probably would ...

"The reality is that we are what we are. We're 9-5. Some people would love to feel good about it had they started slow. Some people would love to feel bad about it if they stumbled of late.

"We've stumbled of late. So be it. We've got to go to St. Louis and seek our 10th win."
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Old 12-18-2007, 07:54 AM   #2
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Default Re: Time running short for Steelers to shake funk

You gotta love Coach Tomlin's confidence and never say die attitude.

The game in St. Louie Thursday night is a MUST win for the Steelers. They know there is no margin for error now and are aware of what is at stake. Will they step up to the task? Good teams rise up from adversity and I believe our Steelers will do just that.

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Old 12-18-2007, 08:09 AM   #3
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Default Re: Time running short for Steelers to shake funk

The Kirschke injury is one more issue - with Smith gone the DE position is very thin and with Woodley replacing Haggans he cannot step in to that slot

I am getting a vibe the Steelers lose Thursday and it all comes down to needing to win in Baltimore to make the playoffs - this team just seems to have hit the wall
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Old 12-18-2007, 10:30 AM   #4
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Default Re: Time running short for Steelers to shake funk

Yes the writing is on the wall and we need to "Man up". As much as I don't think we will go far in the play-offs the way we are looking, it would still be nice to finish strong and get some of our Mojo back. Hosting a home playoff game would be awesome and at leat gives us a shot.
You never know....... thtas why they play the games !
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