Looking for Answers

PITTSBURGH – Following Thursday practices, reporters are given time to interview the Steelers' coordinators. But yesterday's Coordinator Day wasn't as cheerful as most.

The two coordinators weren't in a hurry to greet their inquisitors following last Sunday's 39-26 loss to the New England Patriots in which neither unit played well.

Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians went first.

"I never would've guessed we'd play this poorly and made the mistakes we made," he said.

A common excuse this week has been the injury to Hines Ward. However, the Steelers had gained only 5 yards before Ward left the game on the penultimate play of the first quarter.

In the first half, Ben Roethlisberger was sacked 3 times, completed a lone pass to a wide receiver, and produced only 3 points. It wasn't until the Patriots' lead reached 23-3 did the Steelers' offense move the ball.

How did Arians react to his unit's worst performance of the season?

"You identify why and keep your poise on the sideline because there's a long way to go," he said. "The most disappointing thing to me [is] we've been very, very good for four years starting the second half and we have not been very good this year, as we have not been [good] starting ballgames as well. It seems like we get going instead of coming out ready to go. We talk about that a lot."

One of the big problems was that the Steelers called 24 pass plays and 11 run plays in the first half, but couldn't prevent pressure from a New England defense that entered the game with only 13 sacks in eight games.

Considering the loss of injured left tackle Max Starks, Arians was asked why he couldn't alter his game plan.

"You can't change what your game plan is. The next guy's just got to step up and play," he said.

And if that guy can't play?

"If they can't do something, you're in trouble," he said. "If they can't run block, hopefully they can pass block. If they can't play, we're dead. But, no, it's something that we preach hard, that whoever steps in we're not going to change what we're doing. Sometimes you get bad matchups so you try to stay out of formations that create those matchups up front if you can."

Defensively, the Steelers allowed 10 points on the Patriots' first two possessions, and then nothing until New England put the game away with a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady completed 70 percent of his passes, without being sacked, for a passer rating of 117.4.

"We played poorly. We can't lie on that one," said defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. "We're looking forward to getting back on the field and getting that taste out of our mouth."

Brady came into the game with the highest opposing passer rating in Steelers history and is now 6-1 against the Steelers. How can LeBeau convince his players that the next encounter will be any different?

"That's not hard to convince at all," he said. "You've just got to get the game film out from '04. I think we beat them 35- 3 or something like that [34-13 after three quarters, 34-20 final].

"He was the quarterback that day. I think we had two interceptions for touchdowns. He's gotten us and we've gotten him. I hope we do get to him again. He is a great player, but he'll not do the same thing."

NOTES – Missing Thursday's practice were S Will Allen (concussion), DE Nick Eason (illness), S Troy Polamalu (Achilles), and DE Aaron Smith (triceps). Polamalu said his injury is not his Achilles' tendon, but near it and that he's not concerned about missing any games.

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