Steelers starting to dig out of hole of 0-4 start to season



Can you see the tips of their heads yet? Are their ears visible? Maybe, most important, can the Steelers even see the landscape ahead of them as they continue to clamber from that hole they say they created the first month of the season?

“We dug ourselves a pretty big hole here, and we’re still trying to climb out of it,” tight end Heath Miller said.

Two consecutive victories were a boost after they opened with four losses, but how much of one? When they speak about turning things around, have they done so yet? If not, when might that be achieved?

“When we started out the season 0-4, a lot of people counted us out,” said LaMarr Woodley. “We still have an opportunity to turn this thing around. Right now, we’re marching in the right direction and we have to continue to do it.

“Even when we were 0-4 we still believed, we feel like we still had an opportunity to go out there and turn this thing around and we’re doing exactly like we thought.”

The Steelers put the brakes on their downhill train that threatened to turn their 2013 season into something memorable for all the wrong reasons. Still, it’s a long climb back up that hill. They remain where they have been since their first loss, in last place in the AFC North. Cincinnati, at 5-2 and with a victory against the Steelers in their pocket, is a long way off.

But then, so is the end of the season. The Steelers have 10 games left to make amends for their early pratfall. Only one team in the past 21 years has made the NFL playoffs after losing its first four, when the San Diego Chargers did it. But the Steelers don’t have to make the playoffs this week, all they have to do is go to Oakland and win, something they haven’t done since 1995.

“We’re still 2-4, we’re a long way from where we want to be,” said offensive guard David DeCastro. “The thing is, it’s a long season. I think it’s just a week-to-week season. We’ve been down 0-4, we know what it’s like to be there and we don’t like it. Just keep going.”

DeCastro and his offensive line are a big reason things have begun to turn for the Steelers. The line played its best game Sunday after an horrendous first month. If it can maintain that formula of blocking well for the run and reasonably protecting the quarterback, good things could happen on offense.

Ben Roethlisberger and his receivers have had it together for a while now, and if they are joined by Le’Veon Bell and the running game, they could achieve the kind of balance they long have sought.

“The credit goes to the offensive line,” Roethlisberger said. “They did such a good job of opening holes, pass blocking and run blocking. [Bell] did a good job but, I’m sure he’d tell you it was because of that line.”

The horizon does not look so far away now, but the venues of their next two opponents do. Although no player would define what “turning it around” means, a 4-4 record would come close. But they have had trouble with the Raiders lately, particularly in Oakland. And they have never beaten Tom Brady in New England, where they must go the following week.

“We can’t look at big pictures,” Roethlisberger said. “We are still in the hole and still trying to get out. That’s the mentality and approach that I think we all have to take.”

Now is not the time to get cocky, Miller said. After all, while they have won two games in a row, it can’t erase the math of losing four in a row.

“We should be a humble group,” Miller said. “We should understand how easy it is to lose in this league and not take anything for granted. I hope that’s our mindset for every game moving forward.”

Redman is released

Did the Steelers punish backup running back Isaac Redman because he faked his way through a concussion in the second game this season?

They released him yesterday after making him inactive the past three games, or since he admitted to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he played through a concussion in the second game this season.

Redman was their highest-paid running back. He was tendered a $1.3 million one-year contract as a restricted free agent. So, too, was another halfback, Jonathan Dwyer, but the Steelers released him before the season and re-signed him after the first game, saving them roughly half his salary.

With rookie Bell out with a sprained foot, Redman started the opener against Tennessee and gained 9 yards on eight carries. He was supposed to start the second game at Cincinnati but took a blow to the head on the opening kickoff and Felix Jones started instead.

Redman returned to play in that game, but later told the Post-Gazette that he had had a concussion and, “I was pretty much out of it the rest of the game. I just tried to go back in.” He said he told the team’s medical staff that he was OK to play.

The Steelers re-signed linebacker Kion Wilson from their practice squad. Wilson made the team at the start of the season but was released Oct. 9 to make room for linebacker Stevenson Sylvester, who was re-signed after he was cut in the preseason.

Redman came out of nowhere to make the Steelers practice squad in 2009 as a rookie from Bowie State College after he kept scoring in live, goal-line drills and short-yardage plays in training camp, picking up the nickname of “Red Zone” Redman in doing so.

Over the past two years, he rushed for 889 yards. His best game came against the defending Super Bowl champion Giants on Nov. 4 in New York when he rushed for 147 yards and scored the winning touchdown with four minutes left.

Ed Bouchette: ebouchette@post-gazette.com and Twitter @EdBouchette.


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