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Print

Labriola on loss to Bears

Posted Sep 22, 2013


And it continues. The losing, and everything that always seems to come with it when the Steelers are doing it with historical regularity.

The losing came in the form of 40-23 last Sunday night at Heinz Field, which means the 2013 Steelers are 0-3, the first time the franchise has produced one of those since the Kent Graham experiment of 2000.

The Chicago Bears, a quality team in their own rite, played the role of the victorious, but it will be the Steelers and their continued losing nearly a full month into this regular season that will resonate about this matchup.

Shortly after the Steelers fell to 0-1 with an uninspired performance against the Tennessee Titans and lost three significant players to season-ending injuries, Mike Tomlin sat in a room with some assembled media and spoke the unvarnished truth.

“Nobody cares about our problems. They’re glad we’ve got them. We need to understand that. We need to stick together and persevere.”

The Steelers’ problems continue to grow as their marginal improvement hasn’t been nearly enough to beat anybody on their schedule to this point. Even being 0-2 had been such an unusual circumstance that only John Mitchell among the coaches and Brett Keisel and Larry Foote among the players had been here the last time it had happened, in 2002. Now it’s 0-3, and unlike pre-Twitter 2000 the Steelers can expect what they lived through last week to be just a taste of what’s to come.

Following the loss to the Bengals, there was a “report” based on a “source” of an alleged “confrontation” between Antonio Brown and offensive coordinator Todd Haley, a “confrontation” that somehow eluded 20-plus ESPN cameras starving for just such a tasty morsel it subsequently could blow out of proportion on dozens of ancillary programs over its empire of networks. The “report” immediately became fact regardless of a point-blank denial by Haley and the continued absence of any footage from anywhere showing anything even remotely resembling a confrontation.

Later, Ben Roethlisberger revealed a players meeting where the only invitees were the 10 remaining players from the team that won Super Bowl XLIII at the end of the 2008 season. At the same media scrum where Roethlisberger mentioned the meeting he also explained that these sessions already had begun and were being held periodically over the course of the calendar. At about the same stage of the week, another “report” cited a “source” as saying the Steelers were in “total panic mode.”

Against the Bears, the Steelers offense moved the ball and scored some points, but five turnovers is an insurmountable number to overcome in an NFL game. Three of Ben Roethlisberger’s turnovers – two fumbles and an interception – led to 17 Bears points, with the two touchdowns coming directly on an interception return by Major Wright and a fumble return by Julius Peppers.

The Steelers’ defensive performance was somewhat typical of what the unit has offered throughout this young season. Stingy at times, decent pressure on the passer at times, tight coverage at times, stout against the run at times. But the Bears’ offense also made enough plays at critical moments to supplement the defensive touchdowns to produce enough points to stay undefeated.

Now the Steelers are 0-3, and that record alone will assure that their problems will continue to mount as it becomes more difficult to stick together and persevere. Only one NFL team ever has begun a season 0-3 and recovered to make the playoffs, and the 2000 Steelers weren’t that team. Not to channel Jim Mora, but the 2013 Steelers cannot concern themselves with something so far into the future.

It’s close to the end of September and they’re winless, and the combination of those two things will invite an escalation in the frequency of “reports” based on “sources.” This tabloid atmosphere is the one in which they now will be working to try to fix and/or improve upon the areas that are preventing them from winning games.

But this is what they have created for themselves. The Pittsburgh Steelers are a marquee franchise that had been beating and beating up opponents for the better part of a decade, and an 0-3 start to a season is going to attract A LOT of attention.

Nobody cares about their problems. They really are glad the Steelers are having them.

Read the rest of this column in its entirety in the current issue of Steelers Digest. To subscribe, call 1-800-334-4005.

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