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Steelers fail second test of the season

Bill Cowher maintains the cure to what ails his Steelers can be found in the Steelers’ locker room, that the outlook is more promising than 2-2 suggests, and that a pair of blown 10-0 leads against two of the AFC’s best are more encouraging than revealing.

That’s one way to look at it.

Another is that the Steelers are 0 for 2 in measuring-stick games, and have yet to establish that they’ll ever be able to catch up to the fastballs thrown by the better teams on their schedule.

A month into the season, we’ve seen, or are about to see, that the Steelers dominate against the likes of Baltimore, Cincinnati and Cleveland, particularly when Ravens coach Brian “Wile E. Genius” Billick offers up a steady diet of rookie quarterback rather than Jamal Lewis. But on Sept. 14 at Kansas City and again on Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field against another impressive collection of Tennessee Titans, the Steelers couldn’t stand 10-0 prosperity well enough to even make a game of it.

It ended up 41-20 against in KC.

The Titans, meanwhile, jumped up off the deck that is the marvelous new playing surface at Heinz Field after falling into a seemingly devastating 10-0 hole well enough to win, 30-13.

The good news, despite the Steelers being outscored by a collective 71-13 around jumping to those 10-0 advantages against the Chiefs and Titans, is that neither of those teams is in the Steelers’ division. Neither are the likes of the Broncos, Rams and Seahawks.

Since the Ravens, Bengals and Browns comprise the remainder of the AFC North, the playoffs remain well within the Steelers’ reach.

Another positive is the Steelers’ collective resolve isn’t about to be shaken by Sunday’s undressing.

“I wouldn’t call it demoralizing; that’s a strong word,” wide receiver Antwaan Randle El said. “We lost to a good team.”

As they had in Kansas City, again in part because the three, four or five decisive plays of the game went against the Steelers, in dramatic fashion.

“A couple plays,” defensive end Kimo von Oelhoffen said. “We give up two for over 100 yards, a couple interceptions. Every game comes down to three or four plays.”

But the more the decisive plays continue to go against the Steelers, the more such occurrences seem to be the rule rather than the exception, particularly against a contender.

Sunday’s loss can be written off to the misfortune of Samari Rolle’s 49-yard interception return to the Steelers’ 1-yard line and Rocky Boiman’s 60-yard dash into the Steelers’ end zone, but that doesn’t explain the Steelers’ inability to run the ball, score touchdowns in the red zone, cover in the secondary, particularly down the field, and make game-turning plays on special teams.

If the answers to all of that are in the locker room, as Cowher believes, it’s time to break the glass and put them into practice, before lingering concerns perceived by the Steelers as correctable get completely out of hand.


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