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Steelers learn lesson in losses

You call it a loss. The Steelers call it a learning experience.

The latest installment of lifetime learning occurred Sunday, when the Steelers managed to quiet their home crowd by losing first a 10-0 lead and, eventually, the game, 30-13, to the Tennessee Titans.

Taken to its logical extreme, a 2-2 team such as the Steelers would be much better prepared for the future at 0-4. Twice as many learning experiences, you understand.

Certainly that would be the take of Alexander Pope, whose assertion, “A little learning is a dangerous thing; drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring,” was a favorite of one of my high school English teachers.

Wide receiver Hines Ward was thirsty enough that he was re-tapping the Kansas City loss as well as this Titans setback in his quest to drink in knowledge.

“We’re going to take a lot from these games and maybe it will help us down the long run,” he said.

Quarterback Tommy Maddox, who bolted UCLA early, was nonetheless eagerly imbibing the knowledge gleaned from losses.

Detailing a list of Steelers’ missed chances, Maddox said, “Ifs, ands and buts, the same thing can be said about Kansas City. But it is early in the year and you learn from those things. You take what you learn from those things and move on.”

Presumably, Maddox has learned to take a sack rather than attempt to throw the ball away and instead hand over a touchdown on a 60-yard interception return.

At last check, a plurality of voters in a web poll on triblive.com is not impressed with the Steelers’ through four games, awarding them a C.

Given a few more losses, perhaps the Steelers could be Phi Beta Football.

But all is not doom and gloom. A history assignment, to check the state of the American Conference after four weeks of the 2002 season, produced cause for optimism in 2003.

Most Steelers fans already know that the Steelers rallied from 0-2 and 1-3 to go 10-5-1 and win the AFC North title last season. They may have forgotten, though, that of the six eventual AFC playoff teams, three were under .500 after four weeks. Besides the Steelers, the New York Jets and the Tennessee Titans were each 1-3. A fourth 2002 playoff team, the Cleveland Browns, was a mere 2-2 after four weeks last season.

Meanwhile, San Diego (4-0), Miami (3-1), New England (3-1) and Jacksonville (2-1, with a bye) all failed to make the playoffs despite their strong starts.

The next homework assignment involved math and the relative strength of remaining Steelers opponents this season. Begin with Cleveland (1-3), which managed to lose to Cincinnati this past weekend and visits the Steelers for a prime-time game Sunday.

A rough stretch follows in which the Steelers play at Denver (4-0) Oct. 12, take a bye week, host St. Louis (2-2) Oct. 26, then play at Seattle (3-0) Nov. 2.

After that, in the entire second half of the season, the Steelers do not face a team that currently has a winning record. Two of the opponents, the New York Jets and San Diego Chargers, don’t yet have a single win between them.

Sure, the Steelers can’t run effectively, can’t cover receivers consistently, and have intermittent failures on special teams. On the other hand, none of this might matter in the last eight games. It truly will appear the Steelers learned something from losing to Kansas City and Tennessee.

Class dismissed.


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