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|12-15-2009, 05:11 AM||#1|
The Virginia Hillbilly
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'We're just trying to beat Green Bay'
A "pretty upset" Mike Tomlin addressed his team yesterday as the Steelers try to put the skids on a five-game losing streak while pondering what precisely has gone wrong for the Super Bowl champs.
Judging by two key members of their defense, it's mysterious, and the main job ahead of the players is erasing the doubt that has crept into the locker room and regaining the confidence they had when they were 6-2.
"It could be settling in," defensive co-captain James Farrior said. "We're doing everything we can to fight it because we have to go out and play these next three games and we can't have anybody doubting that we can win a game. We know we can win a game, but being in a situation like this is pretty tough, to think you might not be capable of winning a game. But we definitely have the athletes in here who can do it. We've proven it in the past. We just have to go out and prove it again."
Farrior said the Steelers no longer look at their odds at making the playoffs, which remain alive but slim.
"We stopped doing that. We did that a few games ago, looking at the rest of the schedule and saying if we win out and all that stuff. Man, we're just trying to beat Green Bay. That's what we've gotten to now."
Injured Troy Polamalu has watched the nightmare unfold from the sideline the past four games. He believes many things have placed his team in its current plight at 6-7 with three games left.
"Throughout the whole team there are little things," Polamalu said. "It's not just turnovers, it's preventing turnovers, it's stopping kickoff returns for touchdowns, it's making catches, it's mental errors, it's everything throughout the team that's kind of accumulated and put us in the position we are currently."
Tomlin gathered his players together yesterday morning and delivered his latest message.
"He was pretty upset about these losses that are coming up," Farrior said. "He feels like it's more on us than anything else and that's the most frustrating thing about it."
The motivation for the players this week comes in different forms.
"You're playing for your job," Farrior said. "Basically when you're in this situation right here, when you're on a team that playoffs are looking bad and you have more games to play, you're really playing trying to solidify your job and establish yourself and make sure you're doing everything you can to be around next year."
There is more for a team that has not won in Heinz Field since Oct. 25.
"Play for pride, play for the fans," Farrior said. "We feel like we let the fans down. They can't even come to a home game to see a winning performance at home. That's bad.
"Play for your family. You want to go out there and play good and represent your name, you want to represent your team, play for the Steelers. There is plenty of stuff to play for and if you can't find something, then you got a problem."
Farrior, one of six captains on the team, said they have not held or scheduled a team meeting to discuss ways to combat the losing, nor the creeping doubt.
"No, we're at a loss, too. I've never been in a situation like this and I've been searching for answers just like everybody else. I feel a special responsibility because I'm a captain. I feel like it's more on the older guys who have been in this locker room. We've been around. We might not have been in this situation but we've been playing football long enough that we can get out of holes like this or get out of something like this. It's been tough on me and the rest of the captains, too."
Farrior said he still believes the effort has been put forth by his teammates, but that their confidence likely has been scarred during the losing streak.
"It's definitely something that goes with winning and we haven't been winning games, so the confidence level just can't be as high as it can be."
Polamalu targets return date
Polamalu hopes to return to play "at least" for the Steelers' final game Jan. 3 in Miami.
Polamalu missed the past four games with a sprained PCL in his left knee. The Nov. 15 injury turned out to be worse than the original prognosis of "day to day," Polamalu said.
"Yeah, it is, definitely."
He said he is optimistic he will play again this season.
"Hopefully, within the next couple of weeks or hopefully by the Miami game I'll be able to play," Polamalu said while wearing a brace on his left knee.
Asked again if the Jan. 3 game was his target date to return, Polamalu replied "at least. Hopefully before then.'
With his team almost hopelessly out of the playoff race, why would Polamalu want to return for perhaps one game?
"Why not? I'm a football player. I'm not a coach, I'm not a cheerleader. What I love to do is play football, and to be out there with my brothers. That's why. It's irrelevant of playoffs. It's always been irrelevant for me whether or not we got to the Super Bowl or playoffs. It's something I enjoy."
Polamalu missed games two through five with a sprained MCL to the same knee.
Tackle Max Starks has been named the Steelers' 2009 Walter Payton Man of the Year and qualifies with others from each team for the NFL Man of the Year honors that recognize a player's community service and playing excellence.
The Max Starks Fund promotes childhood literacy and education, and he also raises funds for breast cancer awareness. He conducts a Thanksgiving food drive and also a golf tournament with teammate Hines Ward and former Steeler Merril Hoge to benefit the Caring Place.
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