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12-15-2009, 04:14 AM
Steelers stumble against NFL bottom-feeders

By John Harris, TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Monday, December 14, 2009
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 57641.html (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_657641.html)

Reflecting on this year's unexpected riches-to-rags story, defensive co-captain James Farrior suggested the Steelers might have been lulled into a false sense of security after winning Super Bowl XLIII.

The Steelers have lost five straight, capped by last Thursday's 13-6 setback to the Cleveland Browns, following a 6-2 start that featured a five-game winning streak.

It marked the Steelers' first loss to Cleveland since a 33-13 defeat on Oct. 5, 2003, and it continues a disturbing trend for the Steelers -- poor play against some of the NFL's worst teams.

The Steelers were upset by Kansas City, Oakland and Cleveland in an 18-day span.

The team finished 12-4 a year ago and suffered no losses against teams with losing records.

"We're not making the plays that we normally make," said Farrior, who has been a starter since joining the team as a free agent in 2002. "We had a lot of close games last year and we won them at the end."

In 2008, the Steelers defeated San Diego, Cleveland, Baltimore (twice), Jacksonville and San Diego by a total of 17 points.

This year, the Steelers lost to Chicago, Kansas City, Cincinnati (twice), Baltimore and Oakland by a total of 21 points.

"I don't know if we expect it to happen, or we're waiting for it to happen, but it's not getting done," Farrior said.

Farrior was a key member on the Steelers team that won Super Bowl XL. The following season, 2006, the Steelers slumped to 8-8 and missed the playoffs.

Apparently, the Steelers didn't learn a lesson from three years ago. They played with a lack of focus and attention to detail against the Browns.

The Steelers aren't alone among teams that struggled the year after winning the Super Bowl.

New England, which won Super Bowls XXXVIII and XXXIX, is the last team to repeat.

If the Steelers continue their free-fall from the playoff race, they'll become the third team since Tampa Bay in 2003 to miss the postseason the year after winning the Super Bowl.

The difference between this year and last year? To paraphrase Super Bowl XLIII MVP Santonio Holmes, the Steelers aren't playing together as a team.

According to Farrior, having great success one year doesn't necessarily guarantee similar results the following year.

"Each year, each team is different. You can't say just because you had the same guys you had last year, it's going to be the same result," Farrior said.

"We expect to win every year and we expect to do the things we need to do to win championships, but you've got to put in the work. I'm not saying we're not working hard, but each year is different."

If the Steelers didn't realize it before, they certainly do now.

Note: The Steelers had no comment to an ESPN report Sunday that the team could be considering changes on its coaching staff after the season. Special teams coach Bob Ligashesky, offensive line coach Larry Zierlein and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians were mentioned as possible assistant coaches who could be in trouble after the team's recent slide.

Tribune-Review sports writer Scott Brown contributed to this story.