The Steelers will do anything to avoid 0-3, and that means doing things Sunday night they have not yet done, not used much or not done very well.
Most of that will occur on offense, where their 19 points are third fewest in the NFL and which coach Mike Tomlin made the scapegoat for their winless record.
As offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert has noted, they plan to deploy their zone run-blocking scheme after keeping it mostly under wraps the first two games. Tight end Heath Miller will make his 2013 debut. And Felix Jones is now the latest halfback anointed as the one who might jump-start the second-worst running game in the league.
"I'm not happy with anything right now," said offensive coordinator Todd Haley.
How could he be? His offense ranks second-to-last overall, second-to-last in rushing and 26th in passing in the NFL.
Toward that end, when the Steelers play the Chicago Bears (2-0) Sunday at Heinz Field, Haley will happily welcome the return of Miller to aid both parts of the offense. And Jones will get a chance to show why he was the first-round draft pick of the Dallas Cowboys in 2008.
"I thought he did a good job on the carries he had," Haley said of Jones' effort Monday in Cincinnati, when he ran 10 times for 37 yards. "He found the holes that were there. We need to do a better job of creating some space for him because he does look like he has some ability if we can get him into some space.
"He'll get more opportunities this week."
Rookie Le'Veon Bell, who was supposed to start at halfback until his right foot was sprained in the second preseason game, went through a full practice Thursday for the first time since his injury but is at least one week away from playing.
The offensive line will try to spring Jones loose by using the zone blocking scheme they worked on in the spring and summer. And Haley won't hesitate to insert Kelvin Beachum at one of the tackles if the other two falter.
"When you hand it off 14 times in the first half for a 3-yard average, I don't care what you call it, it has to be better," Haley said. "Those guys know it, our guys up front know it, our receivers know it. To have an efficient run game, we need to do a better job across the board. Because one breakdown will cause you to get 3 yards a carry instead of 4, 4.5, 5 or more. It wasn't just one area, it was one or the other every time the ball was handed off.
"We have to improve -- up front, running backs, tight ends and receivers."
Clark on Cutler
Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler can be maddening to those who coach him. He can follow the wonderfully thrown touchdown pass with an under-thrown interception. It's one reason the Denver Broncos, who drafted him 11th overall in 2006, traded him to the Bears in 2009.
In his first season in Chicago, Cutler threw 27 touchdown passes -- and 26 interceptions, which led the league.
The Steelers are in dire need of forcing turnovers of any kind. They haven't done a very good job of it the past two seasons and they've done none of it through the first two games this season.
Safety Ryan Clark, asked about Cutler, said: "He's Jay, that's about it."
Asked what that meant, Clark expounded:
"He's Jay Cutler. Jay Cutler. Same Jay Cutler you guys have been seeing for an extremely long time now. He's just Jay. He's going to make some plays, he's going to give you an opportunity to make some plays."
Cutler has a 95.4 passer rating after two games. He has never had a full season higher than 88.1.
Haley denies Brown incident
Haley denied he was confronted by an angry Antonio Brown along the sideline Monday in Cincinnati.
"Did not happen. There was no confrontation. That's all I can say," Haley said.
Brown, responding to a Wednesday report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about the incident, said he approached Haley on the sideline to see how he could get more involved in the game.
"There was no problem whatsoever between he or I," Haley said.
Narrowing the focus
While one member of the Steelers described the atmosphere around the team as "total panic," veterans from their last Super Bowl winner in 2008 tried to stem that tide. They met to discuss the situation Wednesday and Thursday, and Clark gave some insight on what that meeting was about.
"It was about ways to get better, it was about ways to improve our culture. So you leave that meeting, taking the things that you learned that other leaders on the team said, and you go out and you try to live that way, you try to bring that to the locker room," Clark said.
"You try to keep everybody positive, you have to try to keep everything moving forward to the one goal this week and that goal is to beat the Chicago Bears."
Clark said they had gotten away from the day-to-day goals and focused on a bigger picture, adding: "I think this week we understood we're not a good enough football team to focus on those things."
"In Pittsburgh we're Super Bowl oriented, everything has to point to the Super Bowl, that ultimate prize. Whereas if you don't focus on day to day, if you don't focus on week to week, if you don't focus on beating the team you play Sunday, you'll never get to that goal.
"I think losing two games has put us in that mode that we need to win one, and that has been everybody's mindset and I think that's good for our team.
"We didn't give anybody a message. It wasn't a rah-rah, let's-get-out-and-win-one-for-the-Gipper type deal. It was a meeting of the minds of people with a lot of football experience and trying to figure out a way that can be helpful to us and that's what it was all about."Steelers
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 20, 2013 4:00 AM