Pittsburgh Steelers Team Report

The Pittsburgh Steelers gained ground in the AFC North on Sunday by not playing. If they could take another week or two off, they might find themselves in first place.<br><br> The Steelers have lost three straight and take a 2-4 record into their game Sunday against the St. Louis Rams, who make their first appearance in Pittsburgh in seven years. But they remain only one game behind Baltimore in a division where 8-8 could win it.

"There's really a sense of urgency now," said wide receiver Hines Ward. "We have 10 games left and we start 2-4."

Pittsburgh is off to its worst six-game start since opening 1-5 under Chuck Noll in 1988. The Steelers finished 5-11 that season.

The Steelers likely will try to run the ball against the Rams and may use Jerome Bettis more to do it. Bettis has just 44 carries and 128 yards in six games as the backup to Amos Zereoue, and the Steelers rank 28th in the NFL in rushing with an average of only 3.1 yards per attempt and have run for 100 yards just once as a team. Zereoue, with 277 yards rushing, is on pace for 739 yards, which would be the lowest to lead the Steelers in rushing since Merril Hoge ran for 610 in 1991.

The passing offense is ranked in the top 10, but they've not been that effective. Tommy Maddox has thrown just five TD passes and eight interceptions and has a 75.3 passer rating, 10 points below his final rating from 2002 and more than six points below Kordell Stewart's in 2001. He's been sacked 10 times. They also rank among the worst teams in the red-zone offense because they no longer can throw it into the end zone.

The Pittsburgh offense has no identity and that can be attributed mostly to an offensive line that has been plagued with injury and poor play. Left tackle Marvel Smith has played just three snaps over the past three games due to a shoulder injury. They had no reasonable backup for him and have moved All-Pro guard Alan Faneca to left tackle.

The Steelers were hoping to put Smith back on the right side to improve the situation there but he is now doubtful for Sunday's game. To make matters worse, the team was also hoping to be able to use backup left tackle Mathias Nkwenti on the right side in a pinch but this week he was diagnosed with a disc problem that will keep him out six weeks.

"Time to get used to each other in training camp, all that, it's out the window. We have to take whatever time we have here and just get used to playing football, not matter who we line up with," Faneca said on the changes in the line.


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