Chiefs have reason to be wary of Pittsburgh

Friday, October 13th 2006, 11:28 am
By: News On 6

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Great teams, poor teams. Good weather, bad weather. Playoff game, or one that barely counts for anything.

Herm Edwards knows it doesn't make any difference.

No matter the circumstances or the personnel involved, the Kansas City Chiefs coach knows how difficult it can be to win in Pittsburgh. That's why he seems to care little about the Super Bowl champion Steelers' 1-3 start, Ben Roethlisberger's ragged play, the inconsistencies in their passing game or their defensive letdowns in the second half.

If his team is playing in Pittsburgh, Edwards understands there is no possible way this could be an easy game for the Chiefs (2-2).

``They've lost three in a row and their backs are to the wall, similar to ours when we were 0-2,'' Edwards said. ``It's going to be one of those games where we can't do what we did in Arizona last week where we got behind (14-0). You get behind on these guys, and it's over, you've got no chance.''

Edwards speaks with more than a little experience.

The last time he took a team to Pittsburgh, his New York Jets sustained one of the toughest playoff losses ever when Doug Brien missed not one but two potential winning field-goal tries in the final two minutes of the Steelers' 20-17 overtime victory on Jan. 15, 2005. No NFL kicker had ever missed two such kicks in so short a span with a playoff game on the line.

The Jets not only lost the game, but Brien lost his job, and he has made only one field goal since, in four tries with the Bears last season.

``It was a tough day,'' Edwards said.

Yeah, Pittsburgh can be a difficult place to play _ at times, even for the Steelers.

Roethlisberger, only a few months removed from his near-tragic June 12 motorcycle accident, heard some boos while throwing three interceptions during a 28-20 loss to Cincinnati on Sept. 24. Steelers fans can be demanding, even after the team finally won a Super Bowl for the first time in 26 years, and they certainly didn't anticipate a 1-3 start.

Of course, the Steelers also didn't expect to be this far behind Baltimore (4-1) or Cincinnati (3-1) so early in the AFC North race.

``It's very surprising,'' wide receiver Hines Ward said. ``If anyone told us we would be 1-3 at this point, it would be very shocking to me. We've got to do whatever it takes to win this game.''

Maybe that's why Edwards might be wishing the Steelers were 3-1 instead of 1-3. They have never started 1-4 under coach Bill Cowher, or since their 1988 team won only one of its first seven.

``You can't go in there thinking you're going to outscore these guys or do anything crazy,'' Edwards said. ``You've got to be very diligent in what you're trying to do and it's going to get ugly at times because they force a lot of negative yards with their defense. There's a certain way you've got to play them.''

Still, who could have expected when the season began that Chiefs quarterback Damon Huard would have five touchdown passes and no interceptions at this point, and Roethlisberger would have no touchdown passes and seven interceptions?

There's plenty of blame to go around for the Steelers' poor start. Such as their inconsistent offensive line play; the inability of their receivers to get open downfield; and the defense's tendency to allow long, successful drives. San Diego had two drives of 80 yards or longer in winning 23-13 last Sunday.

But even taking into account the motorcycle crash and appendicitis attack that left Roethlisberger subpar physically when the season started, his unreliable play has been the Steelers' biggest disappointment.

He already has nearly as many losses as a starter this season (3) as he had in his first two seasons combined (4). He's also making the kind of mistakes _ throwing into traffic or when he's in an awkward position _ he didn't make while going 13-0 as a rookie.

``I'm not going to point the finger at anybody,'' Roethlisberger said. ``I'm going to point the thumb at myself. It's up to me to make the adjustments and the corrections. The rest of our guys are playing good and if our quarterback can pick it up, I think we will be OK.''

The Chiefs, playing in Pittsburgh for the first time since 1989, also would like running back Larry Johnson to get back to the production he had while rushing for 1,750 yards last season.

Johnson is on pace for a 1,300-yard season, but his per-carry average has slipped from 5.2 to 3.7. With Huard not the threat to beat their secondary deep the way injured Chiefs starter Trent Green could, the Steelers hope 325-pound nose guard Casey Hampton will deter the Chiefs from trying to pound Johnson up the middle.

Johnson was limited to 36 yards on 16 carries by Arizona last week because the Chiefs' patched-up offensive line couldn't create running room for him. But Huard responded by throwing for 288 yards and two scores in a 23-20 victory.

``He's making some throws. What we've got to do is a better job of running,'' Edwards said.

The Steelers know from experience it's possible to come back from a 1-3 start and make the playoffs _ an NFL team has done so in 13 of the last 16 seasons. The 2002 Steelers went 10-5-1 and made the second round of the playoffs after being 1-3.

``We're getting everybody's best shot,'' linebacker Joey Porter said. ``Until we go out there and take a game, and stop letting teams back in, that's what we're going to deal with.''