Pittsburgh looks to snap a three-game losing streak when it hosts the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
Since beating Miami 28-17 in the season opener, the Steelers have struggled in falling to Jacksonville, Cincinnati and San Diego—who have a combined 9-4 record. Roethlisberger, who sat out Week 1 after undergoing an appendectomy, has looked shaky in those losses and Pittsburgh (1-3) has been unable to establish a consistent offensive attack.
“I still think we’re a good football team,” said coach Bill Cowher, who has never started a season 1-4. “Right now, we’re not doing the things it takes to win games against good teams.”
With Kansas City (2-2) in town for the first time since 1989, the Steelers hope that Roethlisberger can find his rhythm and help the team rediscover the touch that helped it win the final eight games of last year, including a 21-10 victory over Seattle in the Super Bowl.
Pittsburgh trails Baltimore by 2 1/2 games in the AFC North and only nine teams have ever rebounded from a 1-4 start to make the playoffs.
The Steelers, though, can take comfort in two things. They lost three straight last season to drop to 7-5, then didn’t lose again, and have finished with a winning record both times they’ve started 1-3 under Cowher.
However, Cowher said he wants his team to forget about last season and focus on the present.
“But I think we’re beyond that,” Cowher said. “The danger is there. The danger isn’t in thinking about last year, it’s if you lose sight of where we are right now. History will not dictate the future. History will not influence what happens in the future. Fate is something you can also control.
“All of those things, we understand that. The preparation can’t deviate. The mindset can’t deviate. We just have to go out there and win a football game.”
Roethlisberger has struggled the most. He was 27-4 as a starter entering the season, but has thrown seven interceptions and no touchdowns. Through four games last year, he had seven touchdowns and no interceptions.
Roethlisberger was seen with a protective pad on his right elbow after the 23-13 loss to the Chargers last week, but Cowher denied the injury was anything major.
“It’s not a good feeling, obviously,” Roethlisberger said of his start. “It’s something we need to turn around. We need to look deep inside ourselves and figure out what we need to do to turn it around.”
The Chiefs have resurrected their season with consecutive victories and appear to be settling in with backup quarterback Damon Huard.
With Trent Green out indefinitely with a severe concussion suffered in the season opener, Huard has led the Chiefs to wins over San Francisco and Arizona the last two weeks.
He was named AFC offensive player of the week after throwing for a career-high 288 yards and two touchdowns in the 23-20 win over the Cardinals.
“You never have enough good quarterbacks,” Chiefs coach Herman Edwards said. “Damon has done a good job for us. Who would have ever imagined going into this season that our first two wins, Damon Huard would be quarterback? Probably nobody. Good for him. And good for this football team.”
Larry Johnson is expected to play this week despite suffering a strained neck following a scary tackle late in last Sunday’s game.
The Pro Bowl running back was dragged down by his facemask and lay motionless on the ground for a moment before leaving the field, but Edwards said Johnson only has a sore neck.
Despite Pittsburgh’s offensive woes, its defense has remained solid, and the Chiefs will need Johnson—who leads the AFC with 599 yards from scrimmage—to produce against a unit that’s allowing only 88.5 rushing yards per game.
“Playing Pittsburgh with a record of 1-3 doesn’t recognize what kind of team it is,” said Edwards, who was 1-3 against the Steelers as coach of the New York Jets. “When you watch them play, they play very, very hard on defense and are very, very fast. They’re very good against the run. It’s tough to win in Pittsburgh.”
The last seven games in this series have been played in Kansas City, with the Steelers winning four of those contests.
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