The Steelers, 0-for-the-United States, will head to Europe to try to avoid becoming the franchise's first team in 45 years to lose their first four games.
Five turnovers, two of them returned for touchdowns, doomed the Steelers to a 40-23 loss to the Chicago Bears, who held off a second-half rally by the home team to improve to 3-0.
"We have to do a better job taking care of the football, period," said Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, whose team has lost nine turnovers in three games and gained none.
Mike Tomlin on the Steelers 40-23 loss to the Bears
Mike Tomlin on the Steelers 40-23 loss to the Bears. (Video by Julia Rendleman; 9/22/2013)
Steelers Report: Bears 40, Steelers 23
Steelers beat writers Ed Bouchette and Gerry Dulac talk about the Steelers' 40-23 loss to the Bears at Heinz Field. (Video by Peter Diana; 9/22/2013)
Despite those turnovers, they stormed back in the second half from three touchdowns behind to within four points early in the fourth quarter. But the Bears put them away quickly with a Jay Cutler touchdown pass to Earl Bennett and Julius Peppers' 42-yard touchdown run with a Ben Roethlisberger fumble.
It was Roethlisberger's third of four turnovers, including another that went for a score when safety Major Wright ran an interception back.
It is the first time the Steelers have lost their first three games since 2000. They next head to London to play the winless Minnesota Vikings on Sunday with the chance to lose their first four for the first time since 1968.
"It's a deep hole," Roethlisberger said. "It's getting deeper, but we're not going to quit."
"We need to make something happen here quickly," defensive captain Ryan Clark said.
The 0-3 start, never experienced by any of them here, had some players groping for ways to describe it.
"It's hard, it's frustrating, it's all those words," said another defensive captain, Brett Keisel. "This team is not going to lay down and roll over."
The loss ruined a big game by Antonio Brown, who caught nine passes for a career-high 196 yards and two touchdowns. He did not have to plead with any coach on the sideline Sunday night to get him the ball more often, but he was not satisfied, either.
"It's not about me, it's about us ... We have to stay together as a team."
Roethlisberger topped 400 yards passing for the fourth time in his career. He completed 26 of 41 for 406 yards, his two touchdowns to Brown and two interceptions.
That, too, was small consolation to him, as was how the offense stormed back in the second half.
A lightning-strike, three-play drive that ended when Brown caught a 21-yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger with one hand helped put the Steelers back into the game late in the third quarter.
The Bears, who once led by three touchdowns, clung to a 27-20 lead as the drama entered the fourth quarter.
Then, Shaun Suisham's 44-yard field goal with 10:38 to go brought the Steelers within four, and it looked as though they might avert the 0-3 start.
But Cutler scrambled for 13 yards on third-and-10 to start the next Chicago drive. He then completed two great third-down throws to put the Bears back on top by 10. The first came on third-and-12 from his 37. He hit Brandon Marshall, who caught the ball along the left sideline over good coverage by Ike Taylor for 41 yards.
On third down from the 17, Cutler fired toward the back of the left end zone, where Earl Bennett grabbed it. At first, it was ruled incomplete, out of bounds, but overturned on challenge when replay showed Bennett got both feet inbounds.
"It just wasn't enough," Keisel said. "We didn't make enough plays down the stretch. When we really needed a stop, we didn't do it."
Peppers then put the game out of reach with his 42-yard run with Roethlisberger's fumble that was caused when linebacker Lance Briggs stripped it.
The game, then, ended much the way it had begun.
It was 17-0 Bears after the first quarter, 24-10 at halftime. The lone highlight for the Steelers in the first half was Brown, who caught four passes for 105 yards and a 33-yard touchdown between two defenders in the first two quarters.
It was a total team effort by the Steelers in that nightmare of a first half -- young and old, offense and defense, those banned from playing pool in the locker room and those permitted the luxury.
The Steelers defense, which had been OK through two games, allowed a 5-yard run up the middle by Matt Forte for one touchdown and then a 55-yard run by Forte that set up Michael Bush's 1-yard run for a touchdown.
Two plays into the second half, the Steelers lost their third turnover (and had yet to obtain one in this game or this season) when starting halfback Felix Jones fumbled at the Steelers 29.
That only cost them a field goal when Robbie Gould kicked his second, from 32 yards.
It got so bad that the restless fans at Heinz Field -- only 4,000 no-shows for this game, down 1,000 from the opener -- booed as the Steelers prepared to score. They apparently were not happy that Suisham was sent out to kick a 36-yarder on fourth-and-2 at the 18.
That cut the Bears lead to two scores, 27-13.
But those fans came alive after Brown's sensational, one-handed catch drew the Steelers within seven.
It proved to be too little, too late.
Early on, Roethlisberger and his offense looked as badly as they had in the first two games. He lost a fumble in the first quarter on a sack, and that turnover led to a Bears touchdown.
The Steelers finally had scored on Suisham's 27-yard field goal with 13:36 left in the first half to make it 17-3, Bears.
The Bears had scored three times in the first quarter to grab that quick 17-0 lead that, in the end, the Steelers just could not overcome.
Tomlin has a big job ahead of him, perhaps his biggest since taking the job in 2007. Part of that is to keep his winless team focused on their jobs.
"I'm not going to pat them on the back for sticking together, for continuing to work or for being mentally tough," Tomlin said. "I expect them to, and that's what I just told them in there."Steelers - breaking
For more on the Steelers, read the blog, Ed Bouchette on the Steelers at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Ed Bouchette: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter: @EdBouchette. First Published September 23, 2013 1:30 AM