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03.12.2018 05:57
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PITTSBURGH -- Arthur Moats thought for a second and then basically pulled off the impossible.He managed to sound both angry and optimistic at the same time when asked how a team expected to run away with the AFC North finds itself mired at an uninspired 4-4 at the midway point following a lifeless loss in Baltimore .Frustrated. (Ticked), the almost serially upbeat linebacker said. Because we know the talent we have, how good we can be. But its just not been consistent.Not even close.The offense that wanted to average 30 points a game is averaging a full touchdown less than that. The defense hoping to take another step forward in defensive coordinator Keith Butlers second year instead finds itself still looking for traction.And the special teams? Check Twitter, where GIF-able versions of the blocked punt for a touchdown given up to the Ravens and Chris Boswells comedic attempt at a late onside kick (think hackey-sack trick gone awry) are there for your amusement.Weve got to be better, guard Ramon Foster said. Got to be pros about it, thats the best word I can use for it.And perhaps the most polite. A year ago, the Steelers began the second half at a similar crossroads then went 6-2 down the stretch to make the playoffs and give eventual Super Bowl champion Denver a serious scare in the divisional round.This start, however, feels different. Pittsburgh has dropped three straight, its longest skid since dropping the first four games in 2013. Whats worse, they havent even been competitive on the road.In each of their past three road losses the Steelers have managed all of 40 points and only one touchdown before pre-garbage time stat fillers that made the outcome more respectable.We have to realize we have to be a team that teams want to beat, Foster said. Weve got to treat ourselves like that. We cant drop an egg.Let alone three, all against middling teams that are all 4-4 themselves and none that entered September with the hype or the pedigree in Pittsburgh.Weve got to be the best team in the stadium, at least give the best effort, Foster said. Yesterday we werent that team.At least the Steelers will be home next Sunday, a place where theyre averaging a robust 28.5 points a game.Thats the good news. The bad news? Its against the surging Dallas Cowboys (7-1), who are tied for the best record in the NFL behind rookie quarterback Dak Prescott and rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott.The kids with the blue star on their helmets have played with poise. The Steelers have not, at least not lately. Pittsburghs racked up 29 penalties over its past three games.At one point in the second half in Baltimore, the Steelers had been flagged for more yards than they gained.Were shooting ourselves in the foot, running back LeVeon Bell said. Its definitely not time to panic for us. We know how good we can be. Weve just to go put things together. Its been showing (but) weve lost three straight. Weve got to go and put it together.Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger included. While he managed to suit up just 20 days removed from arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, Pittsburgh struggled to get into any sort of rhythm until the Ravens were up by three touchdowns.By then it was far too late and the Steelers fell to 12-14 on the road in games Roethlisberger has started since 2013.Roethlisberger, as he typically does, shouldered a large portion of the blame saying I need to be more accurate.Maybe, but the issues currently plaguing his team are more widespread.Still, Roethlisbergers brilliance has often been enough to overcome whatever Pittsburgh lacks in certain areas. That hasnt been the case over the past month.Bell stressed theres no time to panic. And despite the current malaise, the Steelers are still right in the thick of a so-so AFC North.Considering how poorly theyve played of late, theyll take it. Mostly because they have to.We can still control what we want to control, Moats said.Better start soon.---For more NFL coverage: and Nike NFL Jerseys China . The Vancouver coach and an announced sellout crowd of 18,910 watched in dismay as the Canucks lost 7-4 to the New York Islanders on Monday night by squandering a 3-0 lead in the third period. Cheap NFL Jerseys China . But when it comes to determining if Raymond will find a place on the Leafs roster when training camp concludes in a week, well, that decision will ultimately fall to the head coach. . Ronaldo produced a spectacular individual performance on Tuesday, scoring all three goals and guiding Portugal into the next years World Cup in Brazil with a 3-2 victory in Sweden. The Real Madrid forward has scored 66 goals in 2013, but the last three may be the boost he needs to upstage Messi after FIFA unexpectedly extended the voting period for the Ballon dOr to Nov. Cheap Nike NFL Jerseys . -- Devin Hester is done returning kicks in Chicago. NFL Stitched Jerseys . Burke is expected to miss two to three months after breaking a finger in the teams third preseason game. Tinsley, a 10-year veteran, spent the last two seasons in Utah, where the point guard averaged 3. SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Technically, there are five spots available on the U.S. Olympic womens gymnastics team that will be unveiled on Sunday night at the end of Olympic Trials. But not really. And Ashton Locklear knows it.We all do the math in our heads, Locklear said. I think you kind of have to. You need to know whats going on around you.Barring injury or a catastrophic drop in form, Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman and Laurie Hernandez are heading to Brazil next month.That leaves one position open -- maybe -- the one Locklear and good friend Madison Kocian will try to convince national team coordinator Martha Karolyi theyre worthy of during what may be the most important 48 hours of their athletic lives.No pressure or anything.I definitely need to prove myself, Locklear said. I definitely need to show consistency.Its a testament to the depth of the powerhouse program Karolyi has built that the only real lingering drama with less than a month to go before the games centers around who will serve as the anchor on uneven bars. The top choices are the fluidly elegant Locklear -- who helped the U.S. to team gold in the 2014 world championships -- and the precise Kocian -- who won gold on her favorite event at the 2015 world championships.Both provide compelling arguments. Locklears cumulative uneven bars score during the two preliminary meets leading up to Olympic Trials was 0.3 better than Kocians total. Yet Kocian provides Karolyi with flexibility in the all-around, heady territory considering she broke the tibia in her left leg just above the ankle at the end of February.I didnt really think it was going to be fractured or anything, Kocian said. I went to doctor, he told me it was fractured. I melted down. I broke into tears. I didnt know what that meant for me.What it meant for the 18-year-old Texan was two weeks in a cast, another two on crutches while wearing a protective boot and six-plus weeks of limited training while most of the crowded elite field -- really, if the U.S. were allowed to field two five-woman teams it would turn the race for gold into an intramural -- kept pressing forward.I drove myself crazy in the beginning, Kocian said. It was really hard. I had to stay off bars 3-4 weeks, Id never stayed off that long.In a way, it may have been a blessing. Sure, sitting for the better part of two months was difficult. It also gave her a chance to recharge mentally, no small thing in a world where the relentless grind of training can wear occasionally wear down bodies and motivation in eequal measure.ddddddddddddKocian believes shes more focused than ever, buoyed by her strong performance at the U.S. championships two weeks ago, where she finished fifth in the all-around thanks in part to a floor routine she and her coaches basically threw together on the fly.It was important for her to prove besides being a bars specialist she is a steady competitor on floor and beam, Karolyi said.Kocian was planning on vaulting at Olympic Trials but was told by Karolyi not to bother out of fear it may affect her still tender ankle.She told my coaches she didnt want to take any risks, Kocian said. She knows its not really worth it right now. Its not really going change my position on the team.Kocian isnt sounding presumptuous, but she knows her best shot at making an impact on a team heavily favored to defend the gold it won so easily in London four years ago is on bars, beam and floor. The vault will be there in case the U.S. should need it.Thats not the case for the 18-year-old Locklear, whose career path was altered when she fractured her L4 vertebra in 2013. She spent months in a brace and when she was finally cleared soon realized floor exercise and vault werent exactly ideal ways for someone with lower-back issues to spend their free time.So she focused on bars and beam, figuring the extra practice time would give her an advantage. It was a risky strategy, the gymnastics equivalent of a high school senior applying to just one college in hopes of getting accepted.Locklear is well aware that Karolyi has five women in mind and can name four of them pretty easily. Its that last one, though, that will be tricky. Maybe its Locklear. Its more likely its Kocian. At least, at the moment. And thats where things can get stressful.Its hard because were really good friends and we both want each other to do their best, Locklear said. Im pretty sure she watches me too. Were competitive with each other but were best friends too.The friendship will be tested this weekend, though in the big picture the decision will hardly impact the Americans chances of standing atop the podium after team finals on Aug. 9.The difference between Locklear and Kocian can be measured in small fractions. The U.S. won the 2012 Olympics and 2014 and 2015 world championships by at least five points. 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