PITTSBURGH – Three games into the season, the Steelers have turned the ball over nine times and have yet to force one of their own.
That alone would be troubling enough if the Steelers weren’t allowing opponents to convert their miscues into scores at an alarming rate.
On Sunday night at Heinz Field, the Chicago Bears converted five turnovers into 23 points in a 40-23 victory over the Steelers, who dropped to 0-3 for the first time since 2000.
Opponents have scored 40 points of Pittsburgh turnovers, which is two fewer than the Steelers’ offense has scored in three games.
“We’ve got to take care of the football,” said head coach Mike Tomlin. “I’m not going to characterize it as anything more than that.”
However it’s characterized, it adds up to an 0-3 record. Since 1990, 115 teams have opened an NFL season at 0-3. Just three made the playoffs.
The Steelers have dug themselves out of similar holes in the past. In 2002, they opened the season with one win in their first four games but finished 10-5-1 and won the AFC North.
Despite their current struggles, the Steelers haven’t given up on the season.
“We have a chance to go 13-3,” said linebacker LaMarr Woodley. “That is realistic. We have 13 more games.”
Technically, Woodley is correct. Realistically? That is another matter.
Against the Bears, an interception return for a score by Major Wright and a Ben Roethlisberger fumble that set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Michael Bush helped put the Steelers in a 24-3 hole.
Roethlisberger brought the Steelers back to within four, 27-23, throwing for 406 yards and a pair of touchdowns, both to Antonio Brown, who set career bests with nine receptions for 196 yards.
It was, by far, the Steelers’ best offensive game of the season. But the Steelers also weren’t done giving the Bears points. A second Roethlisberger fumble was returned for a touchdown, this time by Julius Peppers, after Chicago had just scored on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Jay Cutler to Earl Bennett.
“I honestly thought with all of my heart that we were going to come back and win this game,” said defensive end Brett Keisel. “I believed it with everything in me. It didn’t happen.”
Now, the Steelers head to London to face the Minnesota Vikings Sunday in a battle of winless teams.
“We can’t win 13 (games) in one Sunday,” said safety Ryan Clark. “All we can focus on is winning one. Things are going to happen. No matter how many we lose, we’re going to play 16. They’re not going to stop games and let us forfeit because we’re not winning.
“Pride has to play a factor. Our job is not to play football. Our job is to win football games.”
Getting one victory, no matter how it might come, would be a huge relief for a veteran locker room that has grown accustomed to winning.
“This is a frustrated team. We want to win,” said Keisel. “We work hard. We come to work and work hard trying to win. We’re used to winning. We’re in a situation that a lot of us have never been a part of, and we’re trying to find solutions to try to get out of it.”
Odds and end zones
The 400-yard game was the fourth of Roethlisberger’s career. … Tight end Heath Miller returned for the Steelers and had three receptions for 35 yards. … Pittsburgh’s running game, which had produced 75 yards in the first two weeks, had 80 yards. Felix Jones started and had 34 yards on seven carries, but also lost a fumble. Jonathan Dwyer gained 39 yards on 12 carries. … Keisel and Woodley had sacks. Woodley’s sack, his 54th, moved him into fifth place past Greg Lloyd on the team’s all-time list.