With a far more appropriate quote from the film Gladiator applicable to the Steelers’ current predicament, the mood in the aftermath of Thursday night’s loss at Cleveland — their first loss to the Browns since 2003 — was understandably dark for the black and gold (yellow, not gold), and considerably brighter for the team that previously was 1-11.
“That’s disappointing to lose five straight,” receiver Hines Ward said in comments distributed by the team, “coming off a Super Bowl from last year. It’s embarrassing for me. I think it all starts with the individual. We have to continue to go out, work hard and lead by example. We will see who really wants to go out here, play for the pride of this organization and our city, and who doesn’t want to be around here. I am going to continue to fight my tail off even though we are not in the playoffs. There is nothing fun about losing games, especially five in a row. We are better than that. We should play better than that. We are all in it together, players and coaches. I can’t pinpoint why we are losing. We all have our hand in it. We, as a group, have to come together and continue to go out and fight these last three games.”
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger agreed. “Good word by Hines,” he said. “Embarrassing. Disappointing.”
“Playoffs is pretty much over with,” Ward added in remarks telecast on ESPN. “Right now we’re just playing for pride.”
Asked whether the Steelers are a “playoff team,” coach Mike Tomlin was blunt. “Man, we haven’t won a game in five weeks. We are just trying to win a football game.”
They get their chance in nine days, when the Packers come to town. It’ll be interesting to see how the team is received, given that three months to the day after the Steelers celebrated a sixth Super Bowl win, their 2009 season was for all intents and purposes ended.