If the Pittsburgh Steelers were in any other division besides the AFC North, they might already be looking toward the April draft. Despite having lost five straight, they still think they’re in the hunt for a division title.
The Steelers look to end their skid when they host the Arizona Cardinals in Pittsburgh for the first time in 18 years.
Pittsburgh began the 2003 season as the favorite to win the AFC North, and started the year with two wins in its first three games.
The Steelers, however, are winless since.
The Steelers are in last place in the division, but trail first-place Baltimore by only three games at the midway point of the season.
“I like our chances,” Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward said. “Let’s just win one game. Everybody’s talking about if we can pull off eight in a row. I mean, we’ve got Arizona coming in at home Sunday and we need to win at home.”
Pittsburgh’s remaining eight opponents are a combined 28-42, with only the Ravens being above .500.
The Steelers’ five-game skid is the second-longest in Bill Cowher’s 12 seasons in Pittsburgh, but Ward said the team has complete confidence in its coach.
“Coach Cowher’s been through it,” Ward said. “He just doesn’t want guys to give up. We have eight games left. Looking on the board, we like our chances. We just have to find a way to get out of this funk.”
Washington agreed to a $20 million, five-year contract before the 2001 season and is signed through 2005. He has started 88 consecutive games since joining Pittsburgh before the 1998 season.
“I think right now, in my opinion, it is a change that needs to be done,” Cowher said. “Not just based on one game, but based on performance and based, in my mind, on the state of mind Dewayne is in. I think he needs to sit back and look at it right now.”
Arizona beat Cincinnati 17-14 last Sunday for its second straight win after a three-game losing streak.
The Cardinals are trying to put together a three-game win streak for the second consecutive season. Coach Dave McGinnis, however, is hoping his club doesn’t duplicate what happened after its run in 2002.
Arizona won three straight from Sept. 29-Oct. 20 of last season, but went on to lose nine of its last 10 to miss the playoffs for the fourth straight year.
“I just like the confidence that our football team is playing with and I say confidence and that’s it,” McGinnis said. “I say confidence, and not overconfidence, not cockiness, not anything unrealistic.
“We understand where we are right now and we understand how we have won the last two football games. Believe me, this football team is not going to get outside the parameters of how we have to prepare. This is strictly a day-to-day thing with us and we have to keep that mindset.”
These teams haven’t met in Pittsburgh since the Steelers came away with a 23-10 win on Oct. 20, 1985, when the Cardinals were based in St. Louis.