Steelers look for motivation as playoffs slip away
Troy Polamalu didn’t want to talk about it.
His vintage, not to mention gravity-testing somersault into the
end zone on a 19-yard interception return for a touchdown in the
third quarter turned momentum swiftly in Pittsburgh’s favor at
snowy Heinz Field on Sunday afternoon. Then it was relegated to a
mere footnote in a 34-28 defeat that all but sank whatever
postseason hopes the Steelers were clinging to.
”What does it matter?” Polamalu said. ”We lost.”
The game. The season. And maybe just the latest golden era of
one of the NFL’s most successful franchises.
The Steelers (5-8) are all but mathematically eliminated from
the playoffs with three weeks remaining, the earliest they’ve been
out of it since finishing 6-10 a decade ago. Three mostly
meaningless games remain starting next weekend against Cincinnati,
a stretch that could serve as a long goodbye for familiar faces who
have a Super Bowl ring or two tucked away somewhere.
Though Polamalu remains under contract in 2014, fellow safety
and close friend Ryan Clark is not. And the 34-year-old certainly
sounded like he is eyeing the exit door after the Steelers allowed
the Dolphins to go 80 yards in four plays late in the fourth
quarter to take the lead for good.
”Everybody’s time comes,” Clark said. ”For me, I just want to
enjoy it, keep playing.”
It’s a sentiment echoed throughout the locker room, one the
Steelers have found themselves repeating far too often this fall.
They did it during an 0-4 start. They did it after getting pounded
in a record-setting loss to New England in late October. They did
it again while quietly dressing after a defeat that had all the
hallmarks of a season that never seemed to get off the ground.
The defense allowed a trio of big plays, including a 55-yard run
by Daniel Thomas that set up Charles Clay’s winning 12-yard
touchdown with 2:53 to go. The offense committed penalties on
consecutive snaps in the fourth quarter with the Steelers at
midfield hoping to close it out. The special teams allowed a punt
to be partially blocked and did little in the return game.
”We understood what was at stake in terms of us and this
football game, specifically,” coach Mike Tomlin said. ”We’ll take
responsibility for whatever transpires. We understand the gravity
of these moments.”
And now Tomlin finds himself with one of the more pressing tasks
of his still young coaching career: finding a way to keep focused a
room full of guys used to playing for something this time of
Cornerback Ike Taylor insists it won’t be a problem even while
allowing he is ”frustrated” and ”hurt” that the Steelers are
assured of consecutive non-winning seasons for just the second time
”When you’ve consistently been inconsistent? .500 record,”
Actually, that’s being generous. Pittsburgh needs to win its
final three games to get back to break even, a daunting task
considering the way the AFC North leading Bengals (9-4) are playing
at the moment.
Cincinnati won the first meeting 20-10 back in Week 2. Not much
has changed over the last three months. The Bengals remain young
and hungry. The Steelers still look like they’re trying to figure
Pittsburgh appeared on its way early against the Dolphins.
Rookie running back Le’Veon Bell spearheaded a long touchdown drive
that gave the Steelers an early lead. Yet Bell was largely
invisible in the second half, carrying the ball just five
When pressed on why Bell wasn’t more involved, quarterback Ben
Roethlisberger suggested talking to offensive coordinator Todd
Roethlisberger has never been through a losing season in his
life. Not in high school, not in college at Miami (Ohio) and not in
10 seasons with the Steelers. It’s a personal point of pride for
the two-time Super Bowl winner, one he expects his teammates to
hold close to their hearts too.
”We are just going to give it everything we have every day,”
Roethlisberger said. ”There isn’t going to be any quit from
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org .