Oct. 13--In the five years Mike Tomlin has been head coach, the Steelers traditionally have followed a similar script. They have started 6-2 and parlayed those fast starts into three 12-win seasons in the past four years.
But, after what happened Thursday night in Nashville, Tenn., when the Steelers blew another fourth-quarter lead and lost to one of the NFL's lowlights on yet another last-second field goal, the only thing fast about what they are doing is declining.
And the only script they seem to be following is the disturbing one they manufactured in 2009 when they lost three games in short order to the league's bottom-feeders -- Oakland, Kansas City and Cleveland, none of whom had more than one victory when they faced the Steelers.
The Steelers finished 9-7 that season, thanks to a three-game winning streak to close the regular season. But, one year after their sixth Super Bowl trophy, they missed the playoffs by one game. Had they beaten one of the three lowly teams to whom they lost, the Steelers would have made the postseason.
Three years later, history is starting to repeat itself.
"It's the same thing," said safety Ryan Clark. "You don't want to get to the end of the season trying to find a playoff position, trying to get into the playoffs, and we can't get in because of these games."
The postseason might not even be a possibility for the Steelers (2-3)
They are off to their worst start in the Tomlin era after their 26-23 loss against the Tennessee Titans, a team that had lost each of its previous four games by at least 21 points. And they lost the same way they did against the then-winless Oakland Raiders just two games ago -- blowing a fourth-quarter lead by allowing an 80-yard touchdown drive and the winning field goal as time expired.
What's more, they have lost their past four road games, dating to last season, and play their next game in Cincinnati against the 3-2 Bengals. Because of injuries, it is possible they could be without Troy Polamalu, LaMarr Woodley, Maurkice Pouncey, Marcus Gilbert, Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman for that game.
The Steelers are off until Monday so the extent of their injuries likely will not be revealed until then.
"It's starting to become a habit," Clark said. "We can't keep doing it game in and game out. It seems every time we play on the road we get in a dogfight and we need someone to make a play for us and get us out of it and we don't do it."
Then, he added, "The season's not over. We can't pack it in. But it's not going to get easier. We got Cincinnati, and they're a better team than this. They have better receivers and a better quarterback."
"These are the ones we have to have," said Redman, who caught four passes for 105 yards and became the first Steelers running back to have a 100-yard receiving game since Frenchy Fuqua in 1970. "We can't come out and play the way we played all the way around -- offense, defense and special teams. We're not consistent at all. Something's got to change."
Indeed, the defense isn't solely to blame for what happened against the Titans.
The offense managed just two touchdowns against a defense that had been allowing an NFL-high 36.2 points per game and never seemed in rhythm after an 82-yard touchdown pass to Mike Wallace.
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