On the Steelers: 'I'm sick of losing'
Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward: "I'm sick of losing. Losing's not fun. My day does not go right when we don't win. It's hard to wake up and do anything."
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The Steelers held their annual Christmas party last night, and they still did not receive the gift they most cherish.
"It's very important," receiver Hines Ward said. "I'm sick of losing. Losing's not fun. My day does not go right when we don't win. It's hard to wake up and do anything."
Their previous victory came Nov. 9; their most recent victory at home came Oct. 25. Anyone who had seen only the Steelers' past five games would think they were the Detroit Lions, St. Louis Rams or Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
If the Steelers lose to Green Bay at Heinz Field Sunday, it would tie their longest losing streak in 40 years. For many, it already is the longest skid they have ever experienced.
"Not in high school, not here and I don't think so in college, no," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "For me, you get upset, you get disappointed about it because I hate losing. I hate losing more than anything. The more I pout, the more I sulk, doesn't mean we get to go back in time and win that game.
"You can be upset about it but you have to move on, you have to play your best football to try to get out of it."
Even one of their more revered former teammates does not think that will happen. Jerome Bettis, who stays in touch with some former teammates still playing for the Steelers, said as much.
"The Steelers are done," Bettis told Dan Patrick on Patrick's Fox Sports national radio show this week.
"When you lose your spirit, then everything is pretty much gone. And that's what I saw when they hit the field against the Cleveland Browns. ... When you don't have the enthusiasm to get up for a game in which you have to win, then it tells me that the leadership isn't there."
Roethlisberger took umbrage at those comments.
"Jerome who?" he asked when the question was put to him. "Oh, Jerome said that.
"I guess he's entitled to his opinion. He's not on this team, he's not in this locker room. So he's just taking an outside view as all of you guys are. If you don't know I don't think you should speak on it. I think we're a team that's going to fight and play our best football."
They have not done that in a month and a half, so is this what it must be like for the Lions?
"No, I don't think so," Casey Hampton insisted. "I think when they lose for so long and so much they get used to it. Even talking to Big Baby [nose tackle Shaun Rogers], he played for Detroit and now Cleveland, he's like after 7-8 games, 9 games, cats are talking about the offseason; it's no big deal. But here, we're ticked off, we want to win, we know that's not us. We have a different mentality around here."
That may explain the shock that has gripped the locker room of the Super Bowl champs, who showed few signs of a collapse after winning six of their first eight games.
"I don't think nobody here is going to quit," Hampton said. "Pride, whatever you want to call it, but you got to go out there and show you got that dog in you."
The keys to victory were lost somewhere, but they say they know what it takes to get one.
"Just play to our ability and that's what we haven't been doing," Hampton explained. "Play how we're capable of playing and we'll be OK. Ain't nothing changed, it ain't like nobody's just physically dominating us, killing us. We're beating ourselves.
"Not to take anything away from those teams that beat us, but it's nothing nobody's been doing; it's a lot of stuff we're doing to ourselves."
Rashard Mendenhall on needing 60 yards to become the seventh back in Steelers history to rush for 1,000 yards:
"It means a lot. It's a great milestone for a back. It's almost like my first season and to have 1,000 is an accomplishment."
And on coach Mike Tomlin giving him the additional duties of third-down back:
"Coming out of the draft that's what they felt like, and as I've been able to grow and to handle my role, they trust me to do that as well."
Hines Ward (hamstring) and Brett Keisel (neck) returned to full practice status yesterday, but Limas Sweed missed his second day ill.
Justin Hartwig was limited after having his knee drained of fluid but the coaches remain optimistic he will play Sunday against Green Bay.
• Game: Steelers vs. Green Bay Packers, 4:15 p.m.
• Where: Heinz Field.
• TV: WPGH.
First Published December 18, 2009 12:00 am