Humbling loss to Browns haunts Steelers
The worst loss of the Mike Tomlin era took place on a bitterly cold night last December.
It figures to help on several fronts this week as the Steelers prepare for the renewal of their turnpike rivalry with the Browns.
The defeat will -- or at least should -- prevent the Steelers from tuning out warnings about overlooking a one-win team that may have to start a rookie at quarterback Sunday.
The Browns, after all, had won just one game prior to stunning the Steelers last season in Cleveland and snapping a 12-game losing streak in the long-running rivalry.
The loss marked the low point of the season for the Steelers. It also effectively denied them a chance of defending their Super Bowl title.
What the Steelers also haven't forgotten is how much the victory meant to the Browns.
"I saw a big sign in the stands when we were playing them that said, 'This is our Super Bowl,' " Steelers inside linebacker and defensive captain James Farrior said. "It was a pretty hard loss (because) I feel like they pounded us a little bit on defense. (Joshua) Cribbs had a heck of a day."
The multi-talented Cribbs gashed the Steelers for 87 yards on just eight carries. He also set up the first score of the game with a 55-yard punt return.
Cribbs won't have much help Sunday, especially if Colt McCoy has to start at quarterback because of injuries to Seneca Wallace and Jake Delhomme.
But Cribbs won't get much sympathy from the Steelers, who will be looking to avenge a rare loss to the Browns -- as well as an unkind cut that has not completely healed.
3 questions with Daniel Sepulveda
Q: As someone who entered college as a linebacker, do you say, "Bring it on" when it is only you between a return man and the end zone?
A: "I'm upset because ultimately I wear the net punt (average). He breaks through, that number drops real quick. I enjoy getting a little action. It's just unfortunate that the action I do get is measured with, 'This isn't good for my team, this isn't go for me personally.' The fact that it's bad, cutting it off at bad and not making it worse; that's my job."
Q: What is a movie you can watch any time?
A: " 'Braveheart.' So much passion, so much energy, justice. There's a lot of deep-seeded emotions that get drawn up when you watch that movie. It's a pretty good deal."
Q: What would you be doing if you weren't playing football for a living?
A: "I have an accounting degree (from Baylor). That's probably what I would have gone into. How long it would have lasted, it's hard to say, but that's where I would have first started. Where God would have taken me from there, I don't know because I've got a feeling I wouldn't have been too excited about it."
3 players to watch
Heath Miller, TE -- Steelers need to get Miller, who is off to a slow start statistically, more involved in the passing game.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB -- His return to the Steelers makes this one of the most anticipated games at Heinz Field in recent memory.
Joe Thomas, LT -- Browns' Pro Bowler struggled in Sunday's loss to the Falcons, and has to protect blind side of either an injured or inexperienced quarterback against the Steelers.
Roethlisberger on his role after missing the first quarter of the season:
"I'm not coming in trying to be anything more than I am, just trying to come in and be helpful and be a teammate and do whatever I can to help this team win football games. I think they're off to a great start, and I'm going to come and contribute how I can."
Quarterbacks coach George Whitfield Jr., who worked with Roethlisberger during the latter's four-game suspension:
"He's the most naturally gifted athlete I've been around. You can't appreciate a man that's 6-5, 6-6, 250 pounds being that light and agile and coordinated through just about everything. We'd play Ping Pong down in his basement. I couldn't believe how fast his hands were. I couldn't believe how fast his feet were during footwork."
Inside linebacker Larry Foote on adjusting to a reserve role this season:
"I'm so caught up just being here with the guys and winning. Competitive-wise it bothers me and I'm upset about that, but you've just got to play through it and be ready when they call you."
By the numbers
0 -- Fumbles by Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall this season.
3 -- Kickoffs Joshua Cribbs has returned for touchdowns against the Steelers since 2006.
15.2 -- Average margin of victory during the Steelers' six-game home winning streak against the Browns.
15.6 -- Browns' points per game this season, the lowest in the AFC.
32 -- Steelers' rank in passing offense (136.0 yards per game), last in the NFL.