On the Steelers: Panic might be taking hold


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Just one player and one assistant coach remain with the Steelers from the previous time they opened the season with two losses, so maybe they do not know how to act.

That could explain why wide receiver Antonio Brown confronted offensive coordinator Todd Haley on the sideline in the second half Monday night in Cincinnati, demanding he call more passing plays his way.

It also could account for the comment made by one member of the Steelers, who described things being in "total panic mode."

The 0-2 start and how it was achieved prompted two team captains, Ben Roethlisberger and Ryan Clark, to call a meeting of the 2008ers -- those 10 remaining players from their most recent Super Bowl victory -- to discuss matters.

"It's not like it's a magic solution and we are going to have a talk in this meeting and everything is going to be fixed," Roethlisberger said. "It's more about getting together, coming up with solutions and things that we can bring to the team. I feel like that's the thing we should do as leaders."

Roethlisberger added that "it's not a panic-type thing."

Said Clark minutes before their meeting: "We can't start overlooking that we're not playing well. We can't act like it's going to fix itself because it's not."

Mike Tomlin has never has experienced a losing season since he became coach in 2007, never mind one in which everything came apart.

But, if the Steelers do not beat the Chicago Bears Sunday night at Heinz Field, they will have fallen into a mathematical and emotional hole that could prove too steep to overcome.

"Obviously, we haven't had the type of success that we would have liked, and sometimes that creates frustration and strained communication," Tomlin said Tuesday.

Their 0-2 start comes on the heels of a 2012 season in which they lost five of their final seven games. That makes seven losses in their past nine games.


Next game


• Game: Steelers (0-2) vs. Chicago Bears (2-0), Heinz Field.

• When: 8:30 p.m. Sunday.

• TV: WPXI.


The Steelers made the playoffs three times over the previous 24 seasons after opening 0-2. That includes 2002, a season experienced by only defensive end Brett Keisel and defensive line coach John Mitchell, among the current players or staff.

They have not reached the playoffs after losing their first three games in a season. That has occurred three times since the 1970 NFL merger -- 2000, 1986 and 1970. They previously opened with four losses when they went 0-6 to start the 1968 season, finished 2-11-1, got coach Bill Austin fired and replaced him with Chuck Noll.

Enough of the history lesson.

The plight the team faces today is unique.

Their 75 yards rushing are the fewest in their first two games in history. Roethlisberger's 74.8 passer rating is his worst start to a season, except when he missed the first game of 2006 after having his appendix removed and after he was badly injured in a motorcycle accident that June.

"I think a win would solve or help heal some wounds that we have right now," Roethlisberger said.

Some of the frustration bubbled over when Brown complained to Haley Monday night in the second half of the game about his play-calling, the Post-Gazette reported Wednesday morning.

Brown acknowledged after practice Wednesday that he sought out Haley in Cincinnati.

"Being a hungry play-maker on the team, I did what any good player around should do," Brown said. "You talk to the person who controls the scheme of the game and see what he can do to get you involved, or see what you can do to get things going ...

"I didn't think it was a big issue. We just have to find a way to win. I guess this is what happens when you lose."

He said he went to Haley not out of selfishness but as a way to help the Steelers win.

"That's why I did it the right way," Brown said.

"Instead of just complaining about a problem ... you take it to the person who has control, and working together with the offensive coordinator is definitely a positive ...

"I asked him what is he seeing? I tried to go over thoughts, what he's thinking, to see if we could develop a repetition and get things going for our team."

Brown said he and Haley have talked since.

"We just talked about some things we can do better as a whole and what we can do to try to get on the right page and start winning. We can't point fingers. We have to point the thumb. Each man in his group and in his room has to come out and be better."

Brown was targeted three times in the first half when he caught two passes for 35 yards from Roethlisberger. He was targeted six times in the second half and finished with a team-high six receptions for 57 yards with a long of 18.

Fellow starting wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders had five receptions for 78 yards and was targeted a team-high 10 times. Jerricho Cotchery, the No. 3 receiver, tied with Brown with nine passes aimed his way; he caught three for 59 yards.

Brown also acknowledged that "It's a little bit frustrating when you're 0-2 and you want to contribute to your team and be a difference-maker out there.

"But you have to stay positive. There's a lot more football to play, and you can't hang your head yet."

Roethlisberger said receivers have lobbied him over his entire career to throw them more passes, but he said he knew nothing about Brown's confrontation Monday night with Haley.

"I don't even know what exactly happened or if there was an issue," Roethlisberger said. "From you saying it, I would just assume it was frustration. I don't foresee it being a bigger problem than that."

Steelers

For more on the Steelers, read the blog, Ed Bouchette on the Steelers at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Ed Bouchette: ebouchette@post-gazette.com and Twitter @EdBouchette. First Published September 19, 2013 4:00 AM


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