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|12-23-2008, 05:53 AM||#1|
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Loss could be a positive for Steelers
Loss could be a positive for Steelers
By Scott Brown, TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Perhaps the only thing that could have made the visiting locker room at LP Field feel more melancholy Sunday afternoon is if woe-is-me country music ballads had been piped in.
The Steelers had crashed back to earth after a five-game winning streak had netted them a division title and put them in position to earn the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs. Not that they were feeling sorry for themselves after a game that exposed a few cracks in the NFL's No. 1 defense and raised more questions about whether the Steelers can do something as fundamental as run the ball.
As they sifted through the rubble of a 31-14 loss to the Tennessee Titans, who are 13-2 and may prove that Toby Keith and other country crooners are not the only chart toppers in Nashville, the Steelers actually found something worth saving from the game.
And that, strangely enough, was the realization that their most lopsided loss of the season could provide something of a springboard as they prepare for their regular-season finale against the Browns and then the playoffs.
"If we approach this loss the right way, I think we can turn it into something positive," veteran defensive end Aaron Smith said. "Correct the mistakes, realize that maybe we aren't as good as we think we are sometimes. We aren't just going to show up and beat people. I think there's an opportunity to grow from this, and I guess that will be determined later on down the road."
If the Steelers learned anything on an unusually cold day in Nashville it is this: Their defense isn't invincible, even if the body of work it compiled through the first 15 weeks of the season had suggested otherwise.
People were talking about the Steelers' defense in historical terms since it had yielded less than 300 yards of total offense in 14 consecutive games. But the Titans rolled up 323 yards of total offense and put up 24 points against the defense that led the NFL in scoring prior to Sunday.
The Steelers did not force any Titans turnovers and did not generate much of a pass rush. The Steelers did not make the Titans one-dimensional on offense, something they had done to just about every other team this season.
Quarterback Kerry Collins threw for 216 yards, and Chris Johnson and LenDale White combined for 117 rushing yards, the second-most the Steelers have allowed this season.
"That's not the way we're used to playing defense," said outside linebacker James Harrison, who had the Steelers' only sack against the Titans.
And there may actually be a positive in that for the Steelers, said free safety Ryan Clark.
"I think we got to a point where, not that it was easy, but we could kind of sleepwalk through it," Clark said. "We made little mistakes (Sunday) that we got exposed on."
The offense also has to get sharper as the Steelers prepare for one final tune-up before the start of the playoffs.
The Steelers committed four turnovers — all by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger — and got just 71 rushing yards on three yards per carry. A humbling experience for the Steelers could prove to be a beneficial one as well.
As Smith said, how the Steelers respond from their first double-digit loss of the season will ultimately determine how they look back on it.
"Sometimes, it's a reality check," wide receiver Hines Ward said. "You start getting (over)confident in yourself. Now we can go back to the grind — finish the season strong and get ready for the playoffs."
|12-23-2008, 09:17 AM||#2|
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Re: Loss could be a positive for Steelers
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