Mike Prisuta's Fourth & Goal

The Steelers found a way to the Lombardi Trophy after sitting at 7-5 in 2005. Can they do it from their similarly mediocre 6-4 standing today?

It wasn't all that long ago. And the results then turned out to be precisely what the Steelers desire now.

Still, enough has changed between early December of 2005 and last Sunday in Kansas City that the motivational method applied during trying times has, as well.

Back then, following a home setback against Cincinnati that ran the Steelers' losing streak to three, Bill Cowher broke out the shoulder pads on Wednesday -- an almost unheard of practice in the latter stages of a season -- and conducted a little Contact 101 in preparation for the season's final four regular-season games.

On Tuesday, in the wake of an unconscionable loss at Kansas City that extended the current losing streak to two, Mike Tomlin turned up the heat.

At his weekly press briefing Tomlin announced that special-teams tryouts were being conducted that very day. And that afternoon Keiwan Ratliff and Donovan Woods followed in the footsteps of Arnold Harrison and became ex-Steelers.

Tomlin also rejected the notion that miscommunication was a problem on the 61-yard catch-and-run that ultimately lost the Kansas City game, contradicting the postgame opinion expressed by at least three of his defensive backs, and identified Willie Colon by name as the player who was beaten on the play on which Ben Roethlisberger was hit as he was throwing into the end zone and ultimately intercepted.

Tomlin admittedly spoke with an "edge" as it related to his players and their performance a mere two days after taking responsibility for their lack of preparedness in Kansas City.

It wasn't out of character but it was over the top.

"He always has an edge," Ryan Clark said. "He's always blunt. He's Mike T."

Clark went on to explain Tomlin's mood after the game.

"He was upset, not so much mad but miserable like the rest of us. None of us do this to lose. We're competitors and you do this to be winners and we're used to being winners around here so when you lose a game like that it hurts."

It hurt in 2005 when T.J. Houshmandzadeh was shining his shoes with the Terrible Towel, too. The Steelers got the message then, as they have now. We'll find out beginning Sunday night in Baltimore what they're prepared to do about it.

"I know in this locker room we all hold ourselves accountable," James Farrior said. "No matter what Mike Tomlin says to the media, we all feel responsible for the loss.

"I'm sure he's trying to motivate his team the best way he knows how. We gotta go out there and respond; that's what it boils down to."

Tomlin has turned up the emotional intensity this week, presumably not because the Steelers' playoff prospects are in jeopardy mathematically but because he perceives this team as capable of so much more than merely qualifying for the postseason.

The Steelers needed a late-season run just to make the playoffs in '05, and wound up going all the way, something Deshea Townsend pointed out in Kansas City.

Farrior recalls that, too, but understands it'll take more than remembering what took place the last time mediocrity was overcome for the present-day team to become something more than mediocre.

"It's a similar situation," Farrior said. "We can go back to our memory bank and use that as a reference, but this is a different team. That team we had back then was a special team."

The same can't be said of this year's Steelers.

"Not yet," Farrior said. "We haven't done anything. We're 6-4, what's so special about that?"

Nothing, really, which ought to be all the motivation necessary heading into Baltimore.

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