On Sunday, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin warned that heads would roll this time, too, if he doesn't see "the belief and effort and continued improvement in detail. ... If I don't," he added, "they ain't going to be a part of it, whoever it may be. It's just that simple."
Roethlisberger -- who earlier had said "Right now you could say we're the worst team in the league" -- echoed Tomlin by saying, " We have to believe that we can still be a part of something special, and if you don't believe that then you don't need to be on this team or be out here."
It was a warning heard first from the coach and then from the gutty quarterback who brought the Steelers back from a 17- point deficit to within a first-and-goal at the 6-yard line.
Does it mean there's a problem in attitude?
"I think our attitude has started to change," said Roethlisberger. "I just think that we need to continue to have the right attitude. By saying those things, I don't say it in the terms of 'someone needs to lose their job,' but people need to continue to step up and be better. We need to be better as a whole team. We can't have good parts on certain times, bad parts on certain times. We need to put it all together."
Roethlisberger dodged pass-rusher Jared Allen often enough in the fourth quarter to put his team in position to tie the game at the 6-yard line with 24 seconds remaining. He spiked the ball on first down, threw away the second-down pass while under heavy pressure, and on the final play was sacked by Everson Griffen and fumbled when he didn't see anyone open.
"I couldn't manage to get it out," Roethlisberger said. "Of course I'm holding it out like a loaf of bread because I'm trying not to take it to the ground. And they got it out late. Even if I would've held on to it I don't know if we would've had enough time."
It ended yet another impressive performance by Roethlisberger, who completed 36 of 51 passes for 383 yards. But he was sacked 5 times, and all of that pressure -- most of it from Allen -- led to an interception and the fumble.
The Steelers couldn't record a turnovers themselves for the fourth consecutive week and the defense uncharacteristically allowed three huge gains that led to 21 Minnesota points.
In the first quarter, Matt Cassel hit Greg Jennings for a 70-yard touchdown. In the second quarter, Adrian Peterson ripped off a 60-yard run through right guard for a touchdown. And in the third quarter, Jerome Simpson caught a 51-yard pass from Cassel to set up Peterson's 7-yard touchdown run. Jennings' 16-yard touchdown pass on the Vikings' next series set the lead at 34-17 before the Steelers fought back.
"We just missed tackles," said free safety Ryan Clark. "If you watch film around the NFL -- even film of us -- when you miss tackles, you have to have other people coming to the ball to make them. To have plays where people are overrunning and you miss three or four tackles on the play, that's how you get the big plays, and that's what we're doing.
"I think it's about getting more people to the ball. I don't think it's lack of effort. I think it's us not doing the things we need to do to get people on the ground."
Cornerback Cortez Allen, who missed the last two games with an ankle injury, missed tackling Jennings on the first touchdown and was also beaten by Jennings on the final Vikings score.
"I've got to make my tackles and I've got to be better in coverage," said Allen. "That's something I've got to correct, and I will correct because I don't like this feeling."
Clark was asked if the losing streak -- the Steelers have lost nine of their last 11 games, and also four of four preseason games -- has become a psychological snowball.
"It's about getting off the snide," Clark said. "I'm insane enough and crazy enough -- even at 0-3 and the position we were in -- that when the offense was driving the ball, I was thinking to myself 'We're going to win this game.'
"I think as long as we still have that feeling as a team, that we feel we can overcome most things to win, things will start changing."
Clark said the key is to have fun. But how much fun can be had at 0-4?
"You have to understand the position you're in, that's first and foremost," Clark said. "You have to understand where you are as a team. More than understanding where you are as a team, you have to understand why you're there as a team. That's the thing we need to go back and look at. It's embarrassing what we did defensively. Giving up the long play to Greg Jennings, then Adrian busting a play, and we had another play in the second half, it's embarrassing. But be positive in that we fought, man. We had a chance to lie down. Guys had a chance to not compete, and they didn't do that on either side of the ball or special teams, so that's promising to leave here knowing that this team is going to fight.
"But it's about execution. Don't get it wrong: It's about executing and we aren't executing at a high enough level to win games in the NFL."