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Cotchery's performance a bright spot for struggling Steelers

| Monday, Nov. 4, 2013, 10:27 p.m.

Jerricho Cotchery did all he could to keep the Steelers afloat amid a tidal wave of points by the New England Patriots in the final 20 minutes of a 55-31 defeat Sunday.

The veteran receiver had his best game since joining the Steelers in 2011. His season-high seven catches resulted in three touchdowns and 96 receiving yards.

However, it was a bittersweet performance for the ultimate team player.

Cotchery resisted responding to questions about his performance. Instead, he focused primarily on how the struggling Steelers can turn their seemingly lost season around.

“It's always been a team sport,” Cotchery said. “If you're locked in on individual success, it affects the team in a negative way.

“We have a ton of errors to correct. We can't pat someone on their back for having a good game. We've got to think about getting better.”

At 2-6, the Steelers are staring down their first losing season since a 6-10 finish in 2003 — a year in which Bill Cowher's team also started 2-6. The Steelers are hoping to get somewhat healthy when they face the Buffalo Bills (3-6) on Sunday at Heinz Field.

The Bills aren't likely to be pushovers, considering they stood toe-to-toe with undefeated Kansas City before losing 23-13. The Steelers, of course, are flawed in too many areas to take any team lightly.

“Obviously, we're not where we want to be,” Cotchery said. “We have to continue to believe. It's a long season. We have to go back to work and identify the problems. We've got a lot of work this week.”

Many of the Steelers echoed Cotchery's concerns. But they were simply repeating themselves a week after losing 21-18 to an Oakland team that was hammered 49-20 by the underachieving Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.

Cotchery and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who had season-high 400 yards passing and four touchdowns against New England, will face a Buffalo defense that's 18th against the pass and has allowed a league-high 20 touchdown passes.

Cotchery, though, said the Steelers will need to play mistake-free against the Bills. The Patriots capitalized on three Roethlisberger turnovers — two interceptions and a fumble.

“You know when you play the Patriots you can't have any self-inflicted wounds,” Cotchery said. “Historically, they take advantage of them. They maximized on their opportunities.

“We faced a championship-caliber team that knew how to exploit your mistakes. As long as we've got No. 7 (Roethlisberger), we know we have a shot in any game. We changed the momentum dramatically (in the second half), but they responded like champions.”

Cotchery is eager to see how the Steelers will respond during the balance of the season after a humbling defeat in New England.

“We have fighters in the room,” Cotchery said. “We have guys who know how to win. No one player is going to make the difference.”

Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rpaulk@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RalphPaulk_Trib.

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