"It's an important game. We can't afford to get off to an 0-3 start," Cowher said. "But there's no need to panic. When you have a veteran team that's had success and knows what it can do, there's no need to panic."
They may not be panicking, but the Steelers know a loss would put them in a hole they may not be able to dig out of. "We know what we have to do, but now we have to do it on the field," said Cowher. "Talking about it is one thing, but applying it on the field is what we have to do."
Defensively, the Steelers have allowed 800 yards and 60 points in losses to New England and Oakland and have turned the ball over 10 times. "We're a good team that, right now, isn't playing very good football," Cowher said.
That would be an understatement. Picked by many to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl in January, the Steelers have looked more like the team that went 6-10 in 1999 than the one that went 13-3 in 2001.
They have spent the past week looking at film on ways to keep opponents from picking them apart through the air. Oakland and New England combined to complete 72 of 108 passes for 697 yards against the Steelers. If that trend continues, teams would complete 576 of 864 passes for 5,576 yards this season against the Steelers. The league record for passing yards allowed in a season is 4,541 by Atlanta in 1995. By comparison, the league records for completions and attempts in a season are 432 (San Francisco in 1995) and 709 (Minnesota, 1981).
"We may have what we think are good answers," Cowher said. "Whether or not they prove to be correct or not, only time will tell."
They'll find out quickly. With its running game struggling behind rookie William Green, Cleveland has attempted 120 passes in its first three games, gaining 853 yards. Cleveland's top four receivers, Kevin Johnson, Quincy Morgan, rookie Andre Davis, and Dennis Northcutt, have combined for 53 receptions for 686 yards and nine touchdowns.
Unlike Oakland, which surprised Cowher by opening the game with a spread offense, Cleveland has already shown that formation. "They will go with three receivers on first down and empty the backfield," Cowher said. "They have a good group of receivers that they are working."
And it has been the spread offense that has kept the Steelers' defense reeling in the first two games, setting them up for big plays. "We're going to have to stop it because it's the one thing we haven't been able to do," Cowher said. "We worked on it last week and, again, it comes down to winning on first and second downs and then finishing it off on third down."
Odds and end zones
Cleveland is sixth in the league passing, averaging 284.3 yards per game. ... The Browns' nine passing touchdowns are tied for the league lead.
... Despite having the week off, the Steelers are last in the AFC with 10 turnovers.