Share This Page

Veteran safety Clark says Steelers need to stay positive, focused

| Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013, 8:03 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers free safety Ryan Clark tries to make a tackle on Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis on Monday, Sept. 16, 2013, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.

The Steelers' key players met privately at quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's request not just to sort out why they are 0-2 but to prevent the team from possibly falling apart amid its worst start in 11 years.

“It wasn't a rah-rah, let's win one for the Gipper-type deal,” safety Ryan Clark said Thursday. “(It was) let's come together.”

Only the team's most experienced players took part, Clark said, and they acknowledged what is obvious: The Steelers aren't close to being a Super Bowl team. Or a playoff team. Or the team they're accustomed to being — even in September.

“We understand that we're not a good enough football team to focus on those things. We've got to focus on beating the Chicago Bears (on Sunday),” Clark said. “I think losing two games has put us in that mode that we need to win one, and that's been everybody's mindset.

“I think that's good for our team.”

The Steelers have been outscored 36-19 and outgained 636-472. A third straight loss might derail their season, given that only three NFL teams have overcome an 0-3 start and made the playoffs.

That's one reason why the players huddled, Clark said, in essence, to prevent a bad start from quickly turning into a very bad season and to “keep everybody positive,” he said.

“Ben is the leader of this team, and it's something he wanted to do, clear the air and communicate. ... It was more of a situation to put everybody at ease and keep us together,” Clark said.

There is plenty of blame on both sides of the ball.

Roethlisberger is lacking his characteristic sharpness as his smallish wide receivers struggle to get free at the line of scrimmage. The offensive line's inconsistency and the lack of a featured back have translated into 75 yards rushing, the fewest after two games in team history.

No ground game means the defense is on the field longer — the opponents' time of possession edge to date is nearly 10 minutes — and it isn't generating sacks or turnovers.

With a roster that includes 10 rookies or first-year players, Roethlisberger felt the meeting was vital to turning around a team that reached the playoffs eight times from 2001-12.

There were signs of unhappiness during the 20-10 loss Monday in Cincinnati. Wide receiver Antonio Brown expressed concern about his role in the offense to offensive coordinator Todd Haley, although Haley emphatically denied Thursday there was any sideline rift or confrontation.

“It did not happen,” Haley said. “That's all I can say.” But, he added, “We are frustrated. ... I'm not happy with anything right now.”

With the offense operating so inefficiently — only Jacksonville's is worse — and the defense underperforming, the Steelers' veterans are very aware that another loss or two could fragment the locker room.

“When you've been really successful, you become very big-picture oriented,” Clark said. “We're in Pittsburgh, we're Super Bowl oriented. Everything has to point to the Super Bowl. ... (But if) you don't focus on that day-to- day, if you don't focus on the week-to-week, if you don't focus on beating the team you play Sunday, you don't ever get to that goal.”

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at arobinson@tribweb.com or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

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.