Steelers: We learned our lesson in '09
There's an unwritten rule in the Pittsburgh Steelers' locker room this week: No peeking.
Months removed from winning the Super Bowl in 2009, the Steelers admittedly overlooked the worst teams on their schedule. They wound up losing to nearly all of them, falling to the Chiefs, Raiders and Browns - bottom-of-the-standings teams that had six wins among them when they played the Steelers.
The ensuing five-game slide triggered by those losses ruined Pittsburgh's once-promising season following a 6-2 start and kept the Steelers out of the playoffs.
James Farrior and Hines Ward insist it won't happen again.
Ward flashed a puzzled look Wednesday when asked if he's worried the Steelers (7-3) might get caught looking ahead to next week's important game against Baltimore (7-3) and ignoring Sunday's game at Buffalo (2-8).
''To be honest, I didn't know we were playing Baltimore next week,'' Ward said. ''That's been our mindset, one week at a time. Last year overlooking Kansas City, overlooking Oakland, that's the reason we were on a five-game losing streak.''
Last year, the Steelers' shortened offseason following their second Super Bowl victory in four seasons may have caused them to take shortcuts when the season started. With so many supposedly easy games bunched together in November and December, they acknowledge they didn't prepare properly. Once they started losing, they had a difficult time figuring out how to get out of the slide.
''So we definitely can't be overlooking a team because its record is 2-8,'' Farrior said. ''No way. We're definitely not going to overlook this game. They (the Bills) have just found ways to lose it at the end sometimes. Those guys put up a lot of points, so we're going to have to be on our horse this week.''
The Steelers showed Sunday they may have learned their lesson from a year ago. A season after being upset by the Raiders at home, the Steelers manhandled Oakland on both sides of the ball during a 35-3 victory achieved despite a club-record 163 yards in penalties.
They followed their worst game of the season, a 39-26 loss to New England on Nov. 14, with perhaps their best. Ben Roethlisberger thinks that's a positive sign with six games remaining.
''In this league, that's what's so important, when you do get hot, do you go on those runs?'' Roethlisberger said, suggesting it's time to go on one. ''I think you don't want to do it too early in the year; you want to hit it at just the right time, which we've done in the years we've won the Super Bowl.''
Cornerback Ike Taylor said the concentration and attention to detail must be the same for the Bills as it was for Oakland. Buffalo rallied from a 28-7 deficit to beat Cincinnati 49-31 on Sunday for its second successive victory.
Buffalo also lost in overtime to the Chiefs (13-10) and Ravens (37-34), and dropped close games to the Dolphins (15-10), Patriots (38-30) and Bears (22-19).
''Every game they've played, those guys (opponents) are leading their division, from Kansas City to Baltimore,'' Taylor said. ''The majority of games have been overtimes, losses by three to five points. Forget what the record says, it's a good team.''
The Steelers haven't forgotten Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who threw for 316 yards against Cincinnati, 299 against Chicago and 382 against Baltimore. They faced him during a pair of victories against Cincinnati in 2008, when he filled in for an injured Carson Palmer.
Then, a rattled Fitzpatrick didn't throw for more than 168 yards in either game. He also was sacked seven times during a 38-10 Pittsburgh victory at Heinz Field.
''We're going to have to have people in his face,'' Farrior said. ''I don't think he really likes the pressure too much, so we're going to have to force him into some bad throws.''
The Steelers have won seven of their last eight against the Bills, with only one loss since 1992.