By Christina Rivers
The Pittsburgh Steelers had a difficult outing against the Chicago Bears (3-0) Sunday night, attempting a comeback in the second half to watch the Bears capitalize on turnovers and outscore them 40-23. The last time the Steelers have gone 0-3 at the beginning of an NFL season was 2000.
Steelers fans have been calling for the heads of nearly everyone. The media has reported events that couldn’t be proven (see the Antonio Brown/Todd Haley “confrontation”) and not elaborated on events that have been taking place for weeks in order to create a sense that the Steelers are free falling (the Ben Roethlisberger “veterans only” meeting that actually only included 10 players). While the emotional strain is clearly seen on every face in the Steelers organization, word that they are physically in great shape ahead of their game in London against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday should steady some nerves.
Following the game Sunday, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin described the team’s performance as one in which not enough was done to protect the ball and win. “We’ve got to get better,” said Tomlin. “We know it. We understand it. It doesn’t make it any less painful but that’s just the reality of where we are.” Tomlin added, “We’ve got to take better care of the football.” The three areas in which Tomlin felt the Steelers faltered were putting points on the scoreboard, maintaining possession of the ball and stopping people. The last point was likely aimed at Steelers defenders who often tried to arm-tackle or strip the ball during the game instead of bringing Bears receivers down. Tomlin, ever guarded and always expecting a higher level of play from his players, emphasized that this week will be spent focusing on those issues.
Word that rookie running back Le’Veon Bell is likely to get his first regular season play in the NFL when the Steelers and Vikings face off at Wembley Stadium is a much-needed boost. Tomlin said, “We’re excited about watching him be a full participant this week … and let that dictate his play.” Tomlin commended Bell for sticking with the rehabilitation program on his foot.
Cornerback Cortez Allen (ankle) is also expected to return to practice this week. According to Tomlin, his availability against the Vikings will be determined based on participation in preparation activities.
In his Tuesday press conference, Tomlin addressed the media about the level of excitement the team has, but also the challenge involved, representing the NFL in London. The team spent Monday going over game tape to identify areas that needed improvement. Tomlin also explained that, “from an injury standpoint”, the Steelers are entering the game at a time when the team has been at its healthiest.
The Vikings are also 0-3 on the 2013 NFL Season. Minnesota has had similar issues as the Steelers, but Pittsburgh is not going to underestimate them. Both teams are hungry for their first win. Tomlin insisted that practices this week will be “business as usual”. The Steelers, who will not travel to London until late in the week, will go through meetings and their “normal processes in the last 48 hours in preparation for game time.”
Although it is an honor to be considered to represent the NFL in an overseas game in the United Kingdom, the Steelers can’t be tourists when they walk onto the field in London. When Roethlisberger was asked if he felt that the team was in too deep of a hole, he responded, “We are going to have to give it everything we got to get out … I’m not going to quit.”
“We have to find a way to win,” said receiver Antonio Brown. “Our theme this year is winning … if we don’t win, nothing really matters.” Running back Felix Jones and cornerback Ike Taylor both said that the 0-3 start “hurts”. This week, the Steelers will need to pull off the Band-Aids and get gritty.
While many NFL insiders have already written the Steelers off, the team isn’t concerned about what is thought or said as much as they are about creating opportunities to find wins.
For more Steelers news and updates, visit Steelers Central.
Christina Rivers has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers and National Football League professionally as a reporter and photographer for over a decade. Rivers studied exercise physiology and sports psychology at Brigham Young University as a student-athlete. Christina is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. Her work can be found on