Cowher: Steelers can't count on replay of last season
The Pittsburgh Steelers can refer to their late-season comeback from a three-game losing streak last year as a model for how they can recover from their current three-game slide.
Even if coach Bill Cowher said Tuesday that's exactly what they shouldn't do — namely, expect to do it now just because they did so last season when faced with adversity.
"Everyone wants to refer to last year. Last year was last year," Cowher said. "We've got to deal with right now."
Right now, here's the Steelers' already precarious situation: One quarter of the way through the new season, the Steelers (1-3) trail Baltimore (4-1) by 2 1/2 games and Cincinnati (3-1) by 2 games in the AFC North. They have three games remaining against the two rivals and 12 games left to catch them, but not if they keep playing the way they are now.
"I still think we're a good football team," Cowher said. "Right now, we're not doing the things it takes to win games against good teams."
During the consecutive losses to Jacksonville (9-0), Cincinnati (28-20) and San Diego (23-13) the Steelers have either led or been down by no more than four points going into the fourth quarter, yet have been outscored a combined 26-3 in the final period.
To Cowher, finding a way to keep the offense on the field — San Diego had 41 plays in the second half Sunday to the Steelers' 18 — and to get the defense off the field after three downs is a much bigger concern than trying to emulate last season's eight-game winning streak.
Then, the Steelers were 7-5 and one more loss away from playoff elimination, but won their final four during the season and all four playoff games, none in Pittsburgh.
"But I think we're beyond that," Cowher said. "The danger is there. The danger isn't in thinking about last year, it's if you lose sight of where we are right now. History will not dictate the future. History will not influence what happens in the future. Fate is something you can also control.
"All of those things, we understand that. The preparation can't deviate. The mind-set can't deviate. We just have to go out there and win a football game," he said.
The Steelers haven't done that yet this season, at least not with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback. He had a 27-4 record as a starter going into this season, yet already has nearly as many losses (3) as he did in his first two seasons.
It's easy to see why, too. At this stage last season, Roethlisberger had seven touchdown passes and zero interceptions. This season, he has seven interceptions and zero touchdown passes.
Roethlisberger may still be recovering from his appendicitis attack the first week of the season, but Cowher denied he has an ongoing problem with his right elbow. The quarterback was seen massaging the elbow before the game and had a protective device on it afterward.
"We're not trying to hide anything," Cowher said. "He gets something sometimes like tennis elbow, so he's trying to loosen it up like a kicker loosens up his leg. He's fine."
Defensive end Brett Keisel gave the team a scare because of an apparent kidney injury, but it has since been diagnosed as a bruised rib. Because Keisel could not fly if the kidney was bleeding, the team plane was held up in San Diego so he could be checked at a nearby hospital.
Keisel is questionable for Sunday's game against Kansas City (2-2).
Coincidentally, the Baltimore Ravens' team plane had to make an emergency stop in Pittsburgh en route from Denver on Tuesday morning so cornerback Corey Ivy could be treated for a kidney injury.
Despite not getting back to Pittsburgh until just before rush hour Monday morning, Cowher brought his players back in that afternoon to watch game tape and begin planning for the Chiefs.
Normally, Cowher would have waited until Wednesday morning to show the tape, but he wanted to get that game out of the way as soon as possible so it didn't linger on the players' day off Tuesday.
"That was a first. That was unplanned," Cowher said. "I decided to do it as we were driving to the airport. I didn't like how I felt. I knew that was probably how they felt."
Notes: The Steelers have never been 1-4 under Cowher, who was hired in 1992. They were 1-3 twice previously, but went on to have winning records each time, 10-5-1 in 2003 and 9-7 in 2000. ... LB James Harrison (ankle sprain) won't play Sunday, and WR Willie Reid (sprained foot) is doubtful. ... This will be the first time Kansas City has played in Pittsburgh since 1989. The Steelers have played eight times in Kansas City under Cowher, going 4-4. ... Cowher on the Chargers' drives of 80 and 91 yards: "I'd like to think around here that we go through a season and we rarely give that up."