Is Cincinnati still a cure-all for new-look Steelers?
History suggests the Steelers will upset the Bengals in Cincinnati. History suggests the Steelers will bounce back in a big way from one of their worst season-opening losses of recent vintage.
History suggests the Steelers aren't in big trouble despite losing six of their past eight games dating to last season and having no discernible running game.
“There's no time to panic right now,” Ben Roethlisberger said Wednesday after the Steelers practiced for the first time since their deflating 16-9 loss Sunday to Tennessee. “Let's get ready to bounce back.”
Still, the question persists: When does historical perspective become ancient history and a new set of rules apply?
The Steelers have won 11 of their past 12 in Cincinnati. They dropped their opener each of the past two seasons, then won in Week 2. And they went 12-4 after losing their opener 35-7 in Baltimore two years ago, probably their worst-played loss under coach Mike Tomlin.
“(Sunday) was nowhere near as bad as Baltimore beat us a few years back — and that was a drumming,” safety Ryan Clark said. “For me, you look at the things you have to improve, and you go from there. No one has won the Super Bowl in Week 1.”
But these aren't the same Steelers who were accustomed to enjoying prosperity not long after enduring adversity. They have eight new starters since playing in the Super Bowl less than three years ago and 20 new players since the end of last season.
No one envisioned during training camp that Kelvin Beachum might be their starting center in Week 2 or that Kion Wilson, out of the NFL a year ago, would be a starting linebacker. Or that their backups would include Cody Wallace, Antwon Blake, Terence Garvin and Michael Palmer.
So maybe the rules that always applied to the Steelers are no longer relevant?
“It could be. There are a lot of new faces in here. We're not an old team in here.We're a young team,” Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel said, referring to their 10 players with a year's experience or less. “We're still searching for our first win together as a unit. We need to get over that hump, and hopefully we can.”
Tomlin wasn't happy with much of anything associated with Sunday and was critical of some players during a team meeting Monday. Afterward, Roethlisberger went into the offensive linemen's meeting room to remind them he still supported them.
“Obviously, coach isn't going to be pleased with what happened out there,” right tackle Marcus Gilbert said of Tomlin's reaction to a 32-yard rushing effort.
Regardless, Clark said he likes how the Steelers are reacting to their first home-opener loss since 2002 and the injury loss of center Maurkice Pouncey, linebacker Larry Foote and running back LaRod Stephens-Howling for the season.
He sees no self-doubting, no questioning of talent, no sign the Steelers — even these constantly reconfigured Steelers — aren't ready to win.
“I'm very comfortable, and I feel like we can handle what we're going through. We can handle the adversity,” Clark said. “You can talk about the trials and tribulations of the Pittsburgh Steelers, but all we have to do is go out on Monday night and play football. And all questions will be answered.”