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In the midst of a losing season, the Steelers are looking to right the ship

Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau during practice, August , 2013 at St. Vincent College in Latrobe.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau during practice, August , 2013 at St. Vincent College in Latrobe.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin speaks to the media during his weekly press conference on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, on the South Side
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin speaks to the media during his weekly press conference on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, on the South Side

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Crazy eights

The worst records through eight games in the Steelers' 81-season history:

0-8: 1944

0-7-1: 1941, 1939

1-7: 1969

1-5-2: 1940

2-6: 2013, 2006, 2003, 1988, 1986, 1968, 1967, 1965, 1952, 1945, 1934

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Alan Robinson
Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, 1:12 p.m.
 

Changes are coming to the Steelers, perhaps big ones. Larry Foote can feel it.

He doesn't know when or where, or who will be involved. All he knows is the Steelers' organization won't stand much longer for the record-setting poor performances this 2013 team is producing.

“This isn't the way the Steelers play,” Foote said of a 2-6 team that surrendered an NFL record 93-yard touchdown run by a quarterback and a team-record 55 points and 610 yards allowed in just its past two games.

At his weekly news conference Tuesday, coach Mike Tomlin wouldn't fault his players for their effort during the 55-31 loss to New England, and he didn't detail a single lineup change for the Sunday home game against Buffalo (3-6).

“We were beaten soundly in the game and dominated in a lot of facets,” Tomlin said. “I had concerns about the quality of the effort after a performance like that. After combing through the tape, there were no blatant breaches of that.”

But Foote said it's becoming clear among the players that, “You better play well or you will be out of here.”

“It's dark on the South Side right now,” said Foote, an 11-season Steelers veteran, during a 93.7 FM appearance. He is out for the season with a torn biceps but expects to play in 2014.

Foote also said what is becoming obvious about a franchise that is 4-11 over the past year: “There are some holes on this team. ... The draft picks have to step up and play better.”

Who is accepting blame for what appears to be some substandard recent drafts? Tomlin.

Asked who has a bigger role in the Steelers' picks — the head coach or general manager Kevin Colbert — Tomlin said, “I take responsibility for the players we have drafted since I've been here. Not only in recent drafts, but since I've been here. Because it's the truth.”

Since Tomlin arrived in 2007, the Steelers have drafted four Pro Bowl players in Mike Wallace, now with the Dolphins; Maurkice Pouncey, who is injured and out for the season; LaMarr Woodley and Antonio Brown.

With a 2-6 record, the Steelers own what is easily the worst midseason record of any Tomlin-coached team. The previous worst was 5-3, and the turnaround was clearly unexpected despite the Steelers' 8-8 record in 2012.

“It's difficult,” Tomlin said. “But not anything from a personal standpoint. I don't care about my personal record. ... We're here to win. That's our charge, that's our job, that's our passion. We're not getting it done, consistently, to this point. So that's irritating and frustrating.”

He also called the Patriots game “humbling.”

Part of the reason for the Steelers' worst start since they also were 2-6 in 2006 is they are playing the worst defensive football of coordinator Dick LeBeau's current 10-season tenure; their 341.3 yards per game allowed are easily the most during that time. They're giving up more than 100 yards per game more than their Super Bowl-winning 2008 team did (237.2).

But Tomlin said that's no reflection on LeBeau, who received a strong vote of confidence from the head coach.

Why?

“Because he's Dick LeBeau,” Tomlin said of the Hall of Fame player and coach.

On his weekly NFL Radio appearance, Tomlin said the 76-year-old LeBeau “wants to get this thing corrected” and already is moving on to the Bills game.

The Steelers, who must go 6-2 in their final eight to avoid their first losing season in 10 years, have little choice but to follow.

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

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