Cook: Perfect description for 2-6 Steelers ... Sorry

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You know that $2.5 million dream mansion Bill Cowher bought in North Carolina?

Do you think he wishes he could move into it today and leave this Steelers mess behind?

Can you blame him if he does?

Tell the truth. At least a part of you has to be hoping Cowher gets on with his life's work, the sooner the better. The next coach can't do a worse job than Cowher is doing this season, can he? The players won't tune the next coach out, will they?

Certainly, the results can't be worse.

"You never expect to go 2-6, but it's happened before our eyes. It's real," Steelers guard Alan Faneca said, sighing.

The 31-20 loss to the Denver Broncos yesterday at Heinz Field confirmed beyond any doubt what few wanted to believe as the Steelers were losing to Jacksonville, Cincinnati, San Diego, Atlanta and even the awful Oakland Raiders.

This is one very bad football team.

It would be unfair to suggest that the Steelers' Super Bowl title last season was some kind of fluke. You get what you deserve in sports. The Steelers earned that title.

By the same token, though, the Steelers have earned every bit of 2-6 this season. They keep making the same mistakes week after week, the ones Cowher promises to correct but never does. If there's any injustice, it's that the Cleveland Browns blew a second-half lead against San Diego yesterday. The Steelers deserve to be in last place by themselves.

"I would have bet my house that this wouldn't have happened," nose tackle Casey Hampton said.

You might guess the not-so-funny punch line.

"I'd be homeless right now," Hampton said.

The Steelers had six more turnovers yesterday, bringing their total at the season's halfway point to 24, one more than they had all of last season. You've come to expect Santonio Holmes to fumble on a kick return and Ben Roethlisberger to throw three interceptions. But you know it's a rotten day when Hines Ward, going all out to make a desperation play late in the game, loses a fumble at the Broncos' goal line.

The Steelers had two more silly dead-ball, personal-foul penalties. Linebacker James Farrior and special-teamer Anthony Smith were the violators. Correct me if I'm wrong. Aren't those the kinds of penalties Cowher said would never happen again back in Week 3? Haven't they happened every week since?

The Steelers had another bad special-teams game. It wasn't just Holmes' fumble on a kickoff return early in the game that set up the Broncos' second touchdown or Smith's personal foul on a Broncos' punt return. Kicker Jeff Reed missed a 40-yard field goal that would have cut Denver's lead to 14-10. Don't blame special-teams coach Kevin Spencer for the ineptitude. The special teams are Cowher's baby. He has done nothing to rectify their season-long problems.

Last but not least, the Steelers' defense had breakdowns at the worst times. Broncos wide receiver Javon Walker ran by cornerback Ike Taylor for a 38-yard gain on Denver's first play. Walker beat Taylor twice for touchdowns on jump-ball lob passes. Walker ran 72 yards for a score on the second play of the second half, thanks in large part to a missed tackle by cornerback Deshea Townsend. Walker beat Taylor for a 61-yard catch after the Steelers pulled within 28-20 midway through the fourth quarter.

And you think the Rooneys are kicking themselves for wasting $1.5 million on Duce Staley this season?

How about the $22.5 million they committed to Taylor before the season?

Talk about heartburn.

"I don't know what to tell you. I really don't," Cowher said of the Steelers' woes. "I'm at a loss for words."

So was Ward. Sort of.

"2-6 is what it is. It sucks ...

"I can't explain it. It's not like we became a sorry team overnight. We have basically the same nucleus."

Yes and no.

The Steelers do have the same core players.

They also have become very sorry.

How sorry, you ask?

Here's the second-worse sequence of plays yesterday:

After Ward made a terrific effort on a 63-yard pass play to give the Steelers a first down at the Denver 17 midway through the fourth quarter, guard Kendall Simmons was called for a false start, then beaten for a 6-yard sack by defensive end Kenard Lang on consecutive plays. The Steelers had to settle for a field goal.

Here's the worst sequence, by far:

On first down at the Steelers' 9 early in the fourth quarter, Roethlisberger threw a pass that was batted away by defensive tackle Michael Myers. On second down, Roethlisberger threw a horrible pass that should have been intercepted by defensive tackle Demetrin Veal. On third down, Roethlisberger was sacked by Veal at the Steelers' 1 and was lucky that Faneca recovered his fumble. On fourth down, the Steelers punted and Smith was penalized for taking a foolish shot at Denver's Domonique Foxworth at the end of the return, giving the Broncos possession at the Steelers' 17.

There's your Steelers' season right there.

Sorry really is the perfect description.


Ron Cook can be reached at rcook@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1525.


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