Steelers' campaign could hinge on Eagles
By Alan Robinson
Published: Monday, Oct. 1, 2012, 8:36 p.m.
The Steelers haven't been the team they expected to be, in part because they haven't been able to field the team they expected to have.
James Harrison and Rashard Mendenhall haven't gotten onto the field. Troy Polamalu has played just once. Predictably, the Steelers have badly missed their two former NFL Defensive Players of the Year and a two-time 1,000-yard rusher.
Maybe, just in the nick of time, all three possibly could be on the field together for the first time since the end of last season when the Steelers (1-2) take on the Philadelphia Eagles (3-1) on Sunday in what might well be a must-win game — at least for Pittsburgh — at Heinz Field.
A must-win game only four games into the season and seven days into October?
The Ravens (3-1) and Bengals (3-1) both take on 1-3 teams Sunday. Miami journeys to Cincinnati, and Baltimore treks to Kansas City, so there is a possibility one or both of the Steelers' division rivals will be 4-1 after Week 5.
If the Steelers lose — and they are 2-6 against Philadelphia since 1975 — they could find themselves 2½ games down in the AFC North standings going into road games against Tennessee and Cincinnati.
The last time the Steelers started 1-3, in 2006, even a 6-2 finish couldn't get them back into the playoffs a season after they won the Super Bowl. They recovered from a 1-3 start in 2002 to reach the postseason, but that required a quarterback change from Kordell Stewart to Tommy Maddox.
Right now, quarterback play is one of the few areas where the Steelers don't need to improve; the Mendenhall-absent running game, for example, is 31st in the league.
“Absolutely,” Ben Roethlisberger said Monday when asked if it is especially important to win Sunday. “There's no panic, no panic in here. It's still a marathon, but we need to get a win.”
While the Steelers manhandled the Jets (2-2), 27-10, in their only home game to date, they were roughed up for a combined 65 points during road losses to Denver (31-19) and Oakland (34-31).
Getting Harrison and Polamalu back would help. Both practiced Monday — the third full practice for Harrison since training camp started — but Harrison's surgically repaired knee has balked every time he tried to go hard.
Polamalu, recovering from his second right calf injury since the end of last season, took part in both practices last week and Monday's session.
“The more time off, the better,” Polamalu said. “It was a pretty early bye week for us but, hopefully, we can get some momentum going.”
Playing at Heinz Field should help — the Steelers are 8-1 there the past two seasons — but Polamalu suggested they can't count on home-field advantage to help get them out of their early slump.
“I remember in 2005, we preferred to play away games,” he said. “It was 11 guys fighting against everybody. Our backs were to the whole world. In order for us to have some success wherever we are, we have to have that sort of mindset. Each team has its own personality. We will see how this team turns out.”
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Nelson Mandela: The real legacy
- Penguins’ Orpik taken off ice on stretcher in loss to Bruins
- Worst of winter storm expected to miss Pittsburgh
- Breaking down the Pirates’ needs entering winter meetings
- Rossi: Penguins’ Orpik among select NHLers going without gluten
- CBS: Steelers to lose draft pick over Tomlin mishap
- State police kill knife-wielding suspect in child abduction from Brentwood
- Little change in small-town life
- Investors put squeeze on prospective homeowners’ American dreams
- Controversial Rooney Rule has opened door for NFL minority coaching candidates
- Four injured in Ambridge bar shooting overnight