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fordfixer
12-29-2009, 03:28 AM
Puzzling losses are looming large
By F. Dale Lolley, Staff writer, dlolley@observer-reporter.com
http://www.observer-reporter.com/or/loc ... ens-column (http://www.observer-reporter.com/or/localsports/12-28-Steelers-Ravens-column)


PITTSBURGH - Playoff scenarios be damned, the Steelers are simply focusing on winning one more game - next week at Miami.

"Until they officially rule us out of the playoffs, we're going to continue to fight," Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward said.

That fight continued Sunday against the Ravens, as the Steelers not only won to keep their own playoff hopes alive, they also forced the Ravens into a must-win situation next week at Oakland.

But at least the Ravens control their own fate.

After being 6-2, the Steelers lost five games in a row. Three of those losses came to bottom-feeders Cleveland, Oakland and Kansas City. Had the Steelers won just one of those games, they would enter next weekend in control of their own fate.

Instead, they can beat the Dolphins and still not make the postseason.

"But the fight that this team has shown in the last two weeks," Ward said, "that we didn't quit, shows a lot about the character of our team."

One wonders where that character was during the five-game losing streak.

Where was that heart of a champion?

How can the Steelers be 6-3 when playing opponents with a .500 or better record, yet be 2-4 against against sub-.500 teams?

It will be something head coach Mike Tomlin will ponder long into the offseason - whenever that begins.

"Sometimes when you lose, you look for deeper reasons," Tomlin said. "Every week I come in here and tell you it's a play here or a play there. You've got to make a play. You've got to make a significant play at significant moments. When we've lost, it's been because we haven't. When we have won, it's because we have."

Perhaps the most significant plays in Pittsburgh's 23-20 victory Sunday over Baltimore were two touchdowns the Ravens had called back because of penalties, and a wide-open touchdown pass that was dropped by wide receiver Derrick Mason. Each happened in the second half.

Forgive the Steelers if they weren't feeling badly for Baltimore. The Steelers have been similarly victimized this season. That's why Pittsburgh is left in a precarious spot, needing not to beat Miami and then get some help from other teams to make the playoffs.

That's certainly not where the defending Super Bowl champions felt they would be heading into the final week of the season.

"Hopefully, we can win and have teams do what they need to do to get into this dance," said linebacker James Farrior. "That's the ultimate goal.

"That's all we can control. We'll see what happens. We've still got life and we're still fighting. ... Everybody's goal is to make this right and get into the (playoffs) and do some damage. It will definitely be tough if we don't make it. But we're going to go out and play hard regardless."

And if they don't get into the playoffs, the Steelers can spend an entire offseason replaying every moment of that five-game losing streak, thinking about the significant plays they didn't make.

F. Dale Lolley can be reached at dlolley@observer-reporter.com

NorthCoast
12-29-2009, 10:42 AM
It comes down to game preparation. The Cleveland loss especially looked like there was no game plan whatsoever. Meanwhile the Browns were reported to have spent 3 weeks planning for the game and it showed.
No NFL game can be taken for granted and losing to losing football teams shows what happens when you do.