By Teresa Varley
The Steelers were inside the red zone seven times this season against the Cincinnati Bengals, but only came away with one touchdown, having to settle for a field goal the other six times. On Sunday in an 18-12 loss at Heinz Field they weren't able to get in the end zone and Hines Ward sees a few reasons for the problem.
"We just didn't execute," said Ward. "We had a couple of penalties down there negating us getting in the end zone. It's hard to score when it's second down, third down and goal to go from the 20-yard line. It's just stuff like that. We were just off slightly due to penalties, maybe one guy not being on the same page. You can't beat teams like that."
Ward agreed with the assessment made by Ben Roethlisberger after the game when he said these was "something missing all day" against the Bengals.
"We were very uncharacteristic," said Ward. "It was like we were pressing the issue. I think we were forcing the issue instead of letting the game come to us."
Ward knows that it's important for the Steelers to get the ball in the end zone against the Chiefs on Sunday.
"When we get the ball we need to make sure we are putting up touchdowns instead of making field goals," said Ward. "That has been the case all year. We pride ourselves on being a pretty good red zone team when we get down there. Late in the season, when these games start to really matter, it's time for us to start putting touchdowns up instead of field goals."
The loss to the Bengals dropped the Steelers to second place in the AFC North, but don't look for any panic inside the locker room.
"You can't win the Super Bowl this early in the season," said wide receiver Santonio Holmes. "You can only find all of the wrinkles and get better and keep moving forward. It's one game at a time. We are only worried about the next game."
Holmes believes that as the season plays out, the offense will continue to improve and can be very effective.
"Keeping everybody healthy we can be the number one ranked offense in the league," said Holmes. "We have to keep everybody healthy, put guys on the same page, continue to get the ball to the playmakers and continue to keep blocking the way we have all season."
The Chiefs will be without their leading receiver Dwayne Bowe, who has 33 catches for 466 yards and four touchdowns, on Sunday after he was suspended for four games. But the Steelers defense knows that there are still plenty of options for quarterback Matt Cassel.
"He has been their go-to-guy so they are going to miss him," said safety Ryan Clark. "If you look at the way they run their offense it's been transition, with different guys at X, different guys at Z. different tight ends, different running backs. They are hard to get a beat on. For now you have to go through the first quarter and see who they are going to target and go from there."
Kicker Jeff Reed had taken a lot of heat for not tackling Bengals returner Bernard Scott on his 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Reed, though, disagrees with those who say he didn't make an effort on the play.
"If I can make a play I will do it," said Reed. "For people to say lack of effort, I think they are way off target with that. Then again that's an opinion and it's an opinionated business. If that's what people think, this is my opinion, I think you are wrong."
Roethlisberger had a chance to watch the Chiefs on film on Wednesday morning and knows that they are going to present some challenges for the Steelers offense.
Safety Troy Polamalu (knee) and wide receiver Mike Wallace (illness) did not practice on Wednesday, while Ward and linebacker James Farrior were given the day off. Running back Carey Davis (hamstring) and defensive end Travis Kirschke (calf) were limited in practice.
"It's one step at a time," said Kirschke. "Yesterday (Tuesday) I did some activity by myself. Individual work (Wednesday) and go from there."