Porter promises victory Sunday against Saints

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Today, many Republicans know how the Steelers feel. Riding high as the dominant team, they have been swept up in a landslide of losses and face the next few months as lame ducks, soon to be no longer the ruling party of the land.

The shock of it all, at least for the defending Super Bowl champions, was evident as they reconvened yesterday to begin preparations for what they hope will become a better second half to a lost season.

In fact, linebacker Joey Porter promised a new beginning will take place Sunday when they play the 6-2 New Orleans Saints at Heinz Field.

"You know me," Porter said, "I want to put some of the pressure on my shoulder for us to go out and get this victory: We will come back with a victory on Sunday."

His teammates can only hope Porter's words work as well as they did during the playoffs last season, when he called out the Indianapolis Colts and later the Seattle Seahawks' tight end, Jerramy Stevens.

The circumstances are different this time. At 7-5, the Steelers had to win eight games in a row to win Super Bowl XL. At 2-6, they'd probably have to win 12 in a row to win Super Bowl XLI, a miracle not on their minds these days.

"I'm embarrassed,'' admitted reigning Super Bowl MVP Hines Ward. "I can't speak for other players. Me, personally, myself? Yes, I'm embarrassed. I mean, to be 2-6? There's nothing fun about being 2-6. Especially, when you go out there and you put it all on the line to try to win ball games, yet for whatever reason you can't find a way to win games."

They have lost six of the past seven games and continue to grope to find a way out and how to describe what got them here.

"It's tough," said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, "because we know we're a good team with a bad record. It's frustrating out there right now."

Halfback Willie Parker said after their most recent loss Sunday to Denver that he sensed a "hungrier" team last season than this one and a lack of trust in teammates. He declined to talk yesterday.

"If that's what he thinks, so be it," said Ward, a co-captain on offense. "But you'd have to ask Willie about that.

"I can't speak for other guys, I only speak for myself. I know me, it doesn't matter what happened last year, you have to move on."

Other teammates disavowed any connection to a Super Bowl hangover.

"I didn't hear [Parker's] comment, but I don't believe that's the situation," tackle Max Starks said. "I think all of us go out there and play our hardest. Nobody's thinking 'I need to sit down, I got what I wanted now.' "

Said cornerback Deshea Townsend, "That's his opinion. I don't know, I feel like guys are playing hard, we're just coming up a little short."

Porter said Parker and any of his teammates are entitled to speak their opinions and noted that he has led the locker room many times in that area. But he does not agree that there has been a softening of the attitude among the 2006 Steelers.

"The way we go out and fight on defense, I know it's definitely nobody on my side of the ball who feels like that," Porter said.

"I hate to lose anything I do. Me being a sore loser is natural. To lose the way we've been losing is frustrating."

Guard Alan Faneca, co-captain of the offense with Ward, acknowledged that there was satisfaction with winning a Super Bowl after coming so close in 2001 and 2004, but he does not believe it took away his team's desire to try to win another this season.

"I think hungers change," Faneca said. "I think as close as we were for so many years, that did satisfy that hunger a little bit. At the same time, I think myself and everybody came back in here ready and hungry to get another one. So, I think there are different types of hunger."

Porter said it's not a lack of hunger that separates this year's club from the world champs, it's a glut of turnovers.

"We haven't lost any hunger. We had more turnovers now than we had all of last year. We were involved in every game, but you're not going to win the game when you have four, five turnovers a game. The people you're playing are just too good for you to overcome that all the time."

Matt Freed, Post-Gazette
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Ed Bouchette can be reached at ebouchette@post-gazette.com .


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