After losing their third straight game on Sunday night, an overtime affair in which second-year quarterback Dennis Dixon did a great job of holding the offense together (and flashing more than a little Randall Cunningham-style potential), the Steelers sounded like a team that is feeling its season slipping away.
Some folks react differently to such situations. Coach Mike Tomlin, for example, already has opted to increase the intensity.
“We will not go gently,” Tomlin said after the game. “We will unleash hell here in December.”
But receiver Hines Ward was still focused on the one that got away.
“This is the biggest game of the year,” Ward said, per James Walker of ESPN.com. “Me being a competitor, I just wished we had all our weapons out there.”
It was a reprise of Ward’s comments to Bob Costas of NBC, about which we commented last night. Since some of you disagreed with our interpretation (I think they call that “denial”), here’s the video — along with the interpretation from Dan Patrick, Tony Dungy, and Rodney Harrison of Football Night in America.
“I’m not worried about a problem in the locker room,” Tomlin said after the game, per Walker. “Of course, in that instance maybe Hines was uninformed.”
But Hines wasn’t uninformed. Ward realized that the doctors decided not to let Ben play. Ward also realized that if Ben had only said “I’m fine” after practice on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, Ben would have been cleared to play.
Instead, Ben complained of headaches. (Based on his history and reputation, Roethlisberger might have actually said, “My head hurts so bad I think I almost died.”)
So the champs have fallen from 6-2 to 6-5. Four years ago, they turned it on at 7-5 and rode the momentum all the way to the Super Bowl. With a manageable stretch run (Oakland, at Cleveland, Green Bay, Baltimore, at Miami), they can do it again.
If they can get safety Troy Polamalu back before the Packers come to town.
And if their starting quarterback hasn’t lost 50 percent or more of the locker room by not sucking it up and saying whatever he had to say and doing whatever he had to do to play in the biggest game of the year.