Steelers: "We got punched in the face"

The Steelers are a team full of tough, physical, blue-collar football players with a reputation for beating up on opponents. What happened on Sunday wasn't typical of the unit, it was discouraging. "We got punched in the mouth and didn't punch back," said one player after the game. That's why Pittsburgh is looking to rebound against the Jaguars -- another team that can punch them in the mouth.

Pittsburgh would like to close out the AFC North Division championship when they play the Jacksonville Jaguars at home Sunday.

But it's getting tougher and tougher. The Cleveland Browns just won't go away and after Pittsburgh's blowout loss to New England last week and Cleveland's victory over the New York Jets, the Browns remain one game behind.

The Steelers weren't reeling from their three-touchdown loss in New England Sunday, but they were humbled because their No. 1 defense was strafed by Tom Brady for 399 yards and four touchdowns.

It's not something they will get over quickly.

"When you get beat like this, it is tough to do," defensive end Brett Keisel said. "You got punched in the face, kept getting punched in the face and you really didn't punch back."

As coach Mike Tomlin said, "We have a ways to go. If that is the measuring stick, we're not close. That being said, we'll roll up our sleeves and go back to work."

One good thing is that they return home, where they are 7-0 this season. They follow with two games on the road, where they have not done well. They are 2-4 away from Heinz Field with their only two victories coming in the state of Ohio -- one each in Cleveland and Cincinnati. Their final two games come at St. Louis and Baltimore.

"We have to win, we have to win," linebacker Larry Foote said. "We're not guaranteed into the playoffs right now so we have to take care of home next week."

And the last thing the Steelers are thinking about are guarantees of any sort, not after Anthony Smith guaranteed a victory against New England four days before their 34-13 loss in Gillette Stadium.

His coach and some teammates weren't happy about what Smith said before hand, and at least one believes it got New England's dander up.

"When someone says you guarantee no matter what they do you're going to win, absolutely that's going to affect how that team looks at you," Keisel said. "They came ready to go."


Randy Moss #81 of the New England Patriots gains yards against James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers after a penalty was called in the third quarter at Gillette Stadium December 9, 2007 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Patriots won 34-13. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

 

So there will be no trash talking over the last three weeks for the Steelers, who looked like a lock to win their division in a runaway before they lost two of their past four, including one to the New York Jets.

Jacksonville is an old AFC Central Division foe of theirs and some still remember the bad blood between the two teams.

"We know Jacksonville's going to be tough," Foote said. "They won big and it's always a tough game when we play them. We have to get ready for Jacksonville."

The loss to the Patriots could mean little if the Steelers bounce back and win the division. Either way, it appeared they weren't going to get either of the top two seeds. Winning the division would give them at least a home game in the first week. Then two wins in the playoffs likely would send them back to New England.

"We don't need to be thinking about if we play them again," Foote said. "We have to get into the playoffs."

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