Losing six of eight led to great second half success last time

Jared Wickerham

BTSC's Dale Grdnic spoke to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Ryan Clark, two players on the Steelers' 2006 team that started their season 2-6, only to win six of their final eight games.

PITTSBURGH -- The last time the Pittsburgh Steelers opened the season with a 2-6 record, they finished strong to go 8-8 overall.

That 2006 campaign was the finale for head coach Bill Cowher, who finally guided the Steelers to a Super Bowl victory in the previous season. That's a critical difference between that team and the Steelers this year. The club was 8-8 last season, with a fade down the stretch and was far from being a playoff team let alone a Super Bowl contender.

This year's Steelers squad, which is among the NFL's worst at 2-6 at the season's midpoint, could rally to again finish 8-8. But the playoffs likely are out of the question. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who acted surprised that the Steelers started 2-6 in 2006, believed that looking ahead to anything more than this week's game against Buffalo would be counterproductive.

"For me, we're 0-0 right now, trying to get our first win," Roethlisberger said. "And that's going to have to be the approach the rest of the way out. Winning does help a lot of things, so we're going to do our best to get that. ... Maybe we did the same thing that year, but this time of year it's just one game at a time.

"We're trying to win to get to 1-0. We can't look at the big picture, such as everyone's record. Are we in the playoffs? We're just trying to get one win this week. Who do we have and how good can we play? (So), I just want to get find a way to get a win and build it from there."

Roethlisberger noted that he didn't believe the Steelers quit last week, and they would not do it during the remaining games as well.

"The second half of the season is still to come," Roethlisberger said. "You're not going to see any quit, so we'll just have to see where it goes one game at a time. (But) I haven't seen anybody do that or the signs or anything like that. But I can speak on my own behalf, and I'm not going to quit on this season.

"(And) I'm not worried about it, either, but it's more about I'm not going to quit. In that last game, everybody was busting it until the last play. And I just want to make sure that keeps going."

Free safety Ryan Clark was in his first season with the Steelers in 2006, and he noted all the mitigating factors to the Steelers 2-6 start. There was Ben Roethlisberger's offseason motorcycle accident, which kept him out of the opening game, and his subsequent concussion.

"We just kept playing, and that's all you can do," Clark said. "Try to go out each week and try to win that game. This week, we have to be good enough to beat the Buffalo Bills. We don't have to be good enough to beat the New England Patriots again or be good enough to beat the Oakland Raiders in Oakland. We just have to beat the Buffalo Bills here at Heinz Field.

"And that's what we're going to work toward, (but) 2-6 is 2-6. You played eight games and lost six of them. No matter how they stack up and no matter how they come, they happened. Different things attribute to that. Ben was hurt and had surgery, the car wreck or motorcycle wreck. ... We also lost a captain on the first day of the season.

"We lost the defensive play-caller (Larry Foote) the first day of the season," Clark added. "So, there are many reasons why things happen or why they become difficult. But nobody cares about that. We still have to go out there and field a team and dress 45 players who can play good football, and we haven't done that."

Like his defensive teammates, Clark accepted all the blame for his unit's performance against the Patriots. And he refused to throw Dick LeBeau under the bus.

"I think if you would go to a lot of places and say that, even after that bad week that you're 13th overall and fourth in passing (defense), they'd be happy," Clark said. "They would be jumping for joy for that. We had a bad week. We had a really bad week, and we understand that we have to get better from that."

So, maybe it's a good time to be facing the Buffalo Bills Sunday at 1 p.m. at Heinz Field. But only time will tell.

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