The Pittsburgh Steelers, defending Super Bowl champions and winners of two of the last four Super Bowls, are on the skids. They are on life support as they await the Green Bay Packers this weekend at Heinz Field.
Pittsburgh has lost five straight games, their most since 2003. Three of those came against some of the worst teams in the NFL in Kansas City, Oakland and Cleveland, who were a combined 9-28 after Week 12. Pittsburgh’s five-game losing streak is tied with the 1987 New York Giants for the longest by a defending Super Bowl champion.
“To lose five straight coming off a Super Bowl from last year is embarrassing,” Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward said. “It just hurts. There’s nothing fun about losing games. We’re better than that. We should play better than that. With three games left, you’re going to see who really wants to go out here and play for the pride of this organization and this city and who doesn’t want to be around here.”
The Steelers were 6-2 at the halfway point. Now they’re 6-7. Injuries have played a role, from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s concussion to All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu, who’s banged up knee, has kept him out of four consecutive games and eight this season.
The locker room hasn’t been as friendly either. Comments by Ward before the Baltimore game in Week 12 appeared to criticize Roethlisberger for not playing despite doctor’s orders.
The Steelers demise started five weeks ago against Cincinnati when they failed to score a touchdown for the first time since Week 11 of last season. The Bengals won 18-12, sweeping Pittsburgh for the first time since 1998 and ending the Steelers 10-game home winning streak.
It continued the following week at Kansas City when Ryan Succop hit a 22-yard field goal in overtime to lift the Chiefs to a 27-24 victory. Pittsburgh outgained the Chiefs 515-282, but allowed a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Jamal Charles. Kansas City snapped its 10-game home losing streak with the win.
In Week 12, with Roethlisberger sitting out due to a concussion suffered in the Chiefs game, the Steelers again fell in the extra quarter. Third-string quarterback Dennis Dixon, getting the start instead of backup Charlie Batch (broken wrist), threw an interception that set up the game-winning field goal by Billy Cundiff, giving the Ravens a 20-17 overtime win.
Then came the roundhouse punch in Week 13 that pushed the Steelers against the ropes. The Oakland Raiders scored 21 points in the fourth quarter, including an 11-yard touchdown pass from Bruce Gradkowski to Louis Murphy with 9 seconds left, sending Pittsburgh to a 27-24 defeat.
And in Week 14, on a frozen, windy night in Cleveland, the Steelers and Roethlisberger were knocked to the canvas in a 13-6 loss. The Browns defense, which came into the game ranked 32nd in the league, sacked Roethlisberger eight times, and held Pittsburgh to 216 total yards. Cleveland’s offense, not known for doing too much, outgained the Steelers on the ground 171-75.
The Browns snapped a 12-game losing streak to the Steelers, a 10-game home skid and a seven-game losing streak overall.
“We’ve found new and different ways to not rise up at critical moments and we’re losing football games because of it,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said.
After the Packers, the Steelers host Baltimore. And if their playoff hopes don’t improve by the time they visit Miami in the regular-season finale, they might want to pack some extra clothes for an early vacation.
- Best Homecoming: Michael Vick led Philadelphia onto the field at Atlanta in Week 12, took part in the coin toss and scored on a 5-yard touchdown run and threw a 5-yard TD pass in a 34-7 win over the Falcons. Those were his first touchdowns since 2006 with Atlanta, before he was busted for dog fighting. To top it off, Vick was cheered late in the game after getting booed earlier.
- Staying Out Of The Dog House: Seattle kicker Olindo Mare, who drew the wrath of Coach Jim Mora after he missed two field goals in a Week 3 loss, made a team-record 18 straight field goals through Week 12, including a game-winner against San Francisco.
“As a kid playing football in the yard, I looked up to all the great running backs. But there were a lot of days I was Jim Brown out there on the football field.”
-San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson, after passing Brown in Week 12 for eighth place on the all-time rushing list.
Copyright © 2009 Bob Hurst. All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Hurst Sports Media.