You might think Pittsburgh Steelers fans are unrealistic to expect the team will win a Super Bowl every season.
But they don’t have anything on some of the players.
When the Steelers started the season with losses to Tennessee and Cincinnati, and youngsters were not living up to expectations, a group of 10 veterans left over from the team’s last championship team in 2008 had a meeting. They decided there was a need to reinforce tradition on a franchise that has a record six Super Bowl victories. The kids weren’t being serious enough, and the mainstays decided locker room game tables could not be used by anyone who wasn’t at least a four-year veteran.
“Losing is not an option around here,” said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, leader of the ’08ers. “We have six Lombardi [Trophies] and all the Hall of Famers that have come here before us. There’s a right [way] to wear the black and gold, and [we] have to make sure they understand that.”
How quickly will the younger players catch on?
“I don’t think that’s something that you’ll ever find resolution to,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “It’s part of being a Steeler, passing down the oral history, talking about the contributions and sacrifices of those who have come before. I don’t think that’s ever something you can check off and say ‘job done.’ ”
Things have gotten more serious this week. The Steelers, who face the Vikings in London on Sunday, are coming off a 40-23 loss to Chicago in which Roethlisberger had an interception and a fumble returned for touchdowns.
“I can’t have it happen,” the 10-year veteran said. “If we don’t turn the ball over in critical situations, or as much as we have, then we are in most of [our] games.”
Roethlisberger and Tomlin spoke via conference call before the team arrived in London on Friday.
The Steelers trademarks have been a ferocious defense and a power running game. This season, they’re 28th in the league in defense, haven’t forced a turnover and have the league’s lowest-rated running attack. They also are 31st in third-down conversion percentage.
“We’ve created that situation due to ineffectiveness on first and second down,” Tomlin said. “If you’re in third-and-long, you’re going to have a tough time converting. We’ve been in too many third-and-longs, but we’ve created it.”
The Vikings are also 0-3. Only one 0-4 team, the 1992 Chargers, made the NFL playoffs since the field was expanded in 1990, so odds are long that Sunday’s loser will be playing in January.
“Sometimes it just takes one win to get your season going and get it right,” Roethlisberger said. “I don’t think anybody expected preseason for both of us to be 0-3, but we are. Someone will come out of this game with a win.”