|For the Bills, playing the Steelers is only one of many worries|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 13 September 2007 17:27|
No doubt it would have been difficult enough Sunday for the Bills to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in new coach Mike Tomlin's home debut, in a city where they've won once since O.J. Simpson was carrying the ball.
But this game will be excruciatingly tough, as difficult as any that an NFL team has played in years, following a week filled with so much heartache, worry, setback and disappointment.
Only seven days after tight end Kevin Everett was playing alongside them against the Denver Broncos, a helmet-to-helmet hit has left the tight end hospitalized with a cervical spine injury and a very uncertain future.
During troubling weeks like this, football becomes much more than a game, a way of life to players who have been involved in the sport since their Pop Warner days. It becomes a very scary way to make a living, and they know it.
``We've been playing this game for a long time and you see some pretty nasty injuries, and you see some career-ending injuries, but obviously not as serious as this,'' quarterback J.P. Losman said. ``People usually learn how to play on. It's something you don't really talk about and you kind of play that way. We all know what we signed up for.''
Bills coach Dick Jauron said there was no use pretending this was a normal week of work and preparation when it was anything but.
``I think it is foolish to deny that it's not an issue, but they're working hard,'' Jauron said. ``They are concentrating. But again, it is never going to be that far from our thoughts, any of us.''
The Steelers all expressed the deepest sympathy for Everett and many said they were praying for him to regain a normal life. But they also said they can't think about such things on the field because, if they do slow down or become cautious while playing, that is when serious injuries occur.
``And you know what?'' quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. ``It's going to give everyone motivation because everybody's really fired up that he might make it out of this good.''
Even without Everett's devastating injury, the Bills needed to regroup this week after a disappointing 15-14 loss to Denver left them a beaten-up club.
Free safety Ko Simpson (broken ankle) and cornerback Jason Webster (broken forearm) also are out for the season, major worries for Buffalo's secondary as it goes against Roethlisberger a week after he threw for four touchdowns during a 34-7 victory in Cleveland.
``You're never sure what they're going to do with all the injuries, it is a little different,'' Roethlisberger said. ``We're going in with the approach it's the Bills' defense and it's going to be a challenge.''
Tomlin was the only first-year coach to win his debut last weekend, and it couldn't have been much easier. The Steelers led 7-0 barely two minutes after the opening kickoff and 24-0 early in the third quarter, and the Browns never showed any signs of being competitive.
It was exactly the start Tomlin wanted from the Steelers, who appear determined to put last year's 8-8 record behind them and again become the elite team they were in 2004 (15-1 record) and 2005 (Super Bowl champions).
But for all the positives they brought home from Cleveland, the Steelers understand it was only one game, even if it was a very good one. They are convinced the Bills will be a focused, determined team that would love to give Everett an emotional lift by winning a game they are heavily favored to lose.
``It was tough to rebound at first, but one thing coach always talks about is we've got to move on, get back to hard work and do the best we can,'' said Bills rookie linebacker Paul Posluszny, who grew up near Pittsburgh. ``It's not to honor what happened to those (injured) guys, we need to refocus and get back to what we do.''
To win, the Bills need more out of their own offense - and much less from Pittsburgh's, especially after Buffalo gave up 470 yards to Denver.
Willie Parker, coming off a 1,494-yard season, ran for 109 yards on 27 carries against Cleveland as the Steelers used him to run off the clock in the second half.
``We called the same run play about four times in a row and we had the ball 14 of 15 minutes in the fourth quarter,'' Roethlisberger said. ``That's unbelievable.''
To improve their own running game, the Bills signed left guard Derrick Dockery to a $49 million contract and right tackle Langston Walker to a $25 million deal during the offseason. Marshawn Lynch ran for 90 yards and a touchdown behind that rebuilt line, but Losman threw for only 97 yards, was intercepted once and was sacked twice.
``We have a huge challenge in front of us,'' Jauron said.
This week, playing the game will be only one of those challenges.
``We have to learn how to move on,'' Losman said.