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Harris: Steelers' season feels like deja vu

CINCINNATI — Will this be 2006 all over again• Will history repeat itself for the defending Super Bowl champion Steelers?

The Steelers don't normally blow 11-point leads in the fourth quarter.

They never lose to the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium — at least they didn't until this year.

You know the Bengals. They wear big, red noses and dress up in clown suits whenever the Steelers visit.

That is, until Cincinnati's stunning, 23-20 comeback win against the Steelers on Sunday — when up was down, right was wrong and the Bengals finally turned the tables on their AFC North rivals.

Clutch fourth-quarter comebacks are usually reserved for the Steelers, not the Bengals.

Cincinnati ended an eight-game home losing streak against the Steelers along with a five-game overall losing streak to the Steelers going back to Sept. 24, 2006 — three years and three days to the date.

"Is that right• Now, we have to start over," defensive end Aaron Smith said.

There's something about the Steelers playing in the month of September the season after winning the Super Bowl that's worth noting.

Just as they were in 2006, the Steelers are 1-2.

If it happens once, it's a coincidence. If it happens twice, that usually signals a trend.

"Correlation• Nah. That's two different years,'' Smith said. "The fact is, we had plenty of chances to put this game way and didn't do it. This was a division game; it had nothing to do with anything else."

Added cornerback Ike Taylor: "I don't remember that far back. I don't even care right now. It's 2009."

Uncharacteristic defensive breakdowns and squandered scoring opportunities against Cincinnati leave the Steelers in third place in the division behind first-place Baltimore and the Bengals.

"The Super Bowl champions (being) 1-2 is not how we envisioned our season starting out," wide receiver Hines Ward said. "We left a lot of plays on the field. If we score touchdowns in the first half, that's not even a ballgame. That's 24-0 or 24-3 (instead of 13-3).''

In the third quarter, crossed signals between quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wide receiver Santonio Holmes resulted in Johnathan Joseph's 30-yard interception return for a touchdown that cut the Steelers' lead to 13-9.

"It was a miscommunication," Roethlisberger said. "We won't point fingers or put blame on anything.

"It's adversity that we have to face, but we've faced similar situations before."

Defensively, inside linebacker James Farrior blamed himself for Cincinnati's winning touchdown. Two plays before Carson Palmer's 4-yard scoring toss to Andre Caldwell, Farrior said he didn't stop Brian Leonard's 11-yard reception on fourth-and-10.

The last time the Steelers opened 1-2 the year after winning the Super Bowl, they missed the playoffs.

Ironically, the Steelers faced San Diego in their fourth game in 2006 — the same opponent they'll play host to next week at Heinz Field. The Steelers lost to the Chargers three years ago and fell into a 1-3 hole they couldn't climb out of.

"It's a matter of making plays and not making plays," defensive end Brett Keisel said. "If we don't start making them, it's going to be a long year."

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