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Specter of 2013 start hangs over Steelers

PITTSBURGH -- Maurkice Pouncey corrected a reporter when asked if the Pittsburgh Steelers are poised for a bounce back season.

“The bounce back should have been last year,” the Pro Bowl center said.

Pouncey could only watch helplessly last season as the Steelers lost their first four games for the first time since 1968 on the way to a second consecutive 8-8 season.

Pouncey tore his ACL eight snaps into the season, and there initially was so much swelling that he couldn’t even travel with the team. Despite that -- and Pouncey having to watch home games on the sidelines -- the fifth-year veteran was around the team enough to know that he doesn’t want to experience another somber September at Steelers headquarters.

“You lose four in a row, everything’s different at work,” Pouncey said. “You come in and everybody’s on the edge and nobody really has a smile on their face.”

Nothing would do more to wipe the collective smiles off the Steelers’ faces than a loss Sunday against the visiting Browns.

The Steelers haven’t lost to the Browns in Pittsburgh since 2003 and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has never lost to Cleveland at Heinz Field. An end to both trends would be particularly disheartening to the Steelers considering their next two games are on the road and the specter of last year’s start hangs over the team.

“Everybody’s talked about it,” defensive end Cameron Heyward said. “If you were here last year that’s all that’s on your mind. It’s almost [talked about] too much.”

The best way the Steelers can end such talk is to beat an AFC North foe that is almost a touchdown underdog on Sunday.

“It’s one of those things where you can go back down that avenue,” Steelers left guard Ramon Foster said of the 0-4 start in 2013. “That has to be the mentality.”