For the Pittsburgh Steelers, the worst collapse in NFL history by a reigning Super Bowl champion is as maddening as it is saddening.
Barely a month ago, the Steelers were 6-2 after winning five in a row - beating the Chargers, Vikings and Broncos - and were well positioned not only to win the AFC North, but to take another run at the Super Bowl.
Then it all got away from them. Blame it on Troy Polamalu and Aaron Smith's getting hurt. Blame it on a delayed Super Bowl hangover, blame it on overconfidence, blame it on a lack of preparation, blame it on an inability to close out close games. Right now, there's a whole lot of blame to go around.
For the Steelers (6-7), finding the words to explain a five-game losing streak that has wrecked their hopes of repeating as Super Bowl champions is proving as difficult as covering a kick return.
To Hines Ward, the collapse is "embarrassing." To quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, it's "disappointing." Ryan Clark calls it "despicable, sad." Most of the Steelers call it baffling, because none of them saw it coming.
"We're better than that," Ward said after the Steelers' 13-6 loss in Cleveland on Thursday night. "We should play better than that. I can't pinpoint why we are losing. We all have a hand in it."
Only one other Super Bowl champion lost five in a row the following season, and the 1987 Giants deserve an asterisk because they used replacement players during part of that strike-interrupted season.
Meanwhile, Cleveland coach Eric Mangini received a bunch of notes of congratulations, including one from Eagles coach Andy Reid, for the Browns' win over the Steelers.
The Browns (2-11) ended a seven-game losing streak and a 12-game slide against Pittsburgh.
Mangini has been increasingly under fire as the Browns have staggered through one of the worst seasons in their history. But by guiding Cleveland to just its second win over its archrival in 20 games, Mangini may have shown that his system may be working.
NFL fines. Tampa Bay right tackle Jeremy Trueblood was fined $25,000 by the NFL for unnecessary roughness, while Tennessee defensive tackle Tony Brown was fined $20,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Trueblood leveled Carolina's Chris Gamble well after a play was over in the second quarter of the Buccaneers' 16-6 loss on Sunday.
Brown was fined for poking his fingers through the face mask of Indianapolis guard Kyle DeVan after a play Sunday late in the first half of the Colts' 27-17 victory. It was also Brown's fourth infraction this season.
49ers. Linebacker Jeff Ulbrich, 32, is retiring after 10 seasons with San Francisco.
He suffered a severe concussion during an Oct. 11 game against the Atlanta Falcons. He was placed on injured reserve eight days later.
Falcons. Atlanta coach Mike Smith said Jonathan Babineaux's arrest Thursday night for felony possession of marijuana will not affect his struggling team.
Babineaux, a fifth-year defensive tackle and arguably the Falcons' best pass rusher this season, has been charged with possessing 11/2 ounces of marijuana. He was arrested during a traffic stop on Interstate 85 at 10:45 p.m. Thursday.
Ravens. A judge in Baltimore granted a protective order that bars Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs, 27, from contact with the mother of his two young children, a decision that Suggs agreed to without admitting any wrongdoing.
Candace D. Williams, 26, accused Suggs of hitting her in the chest, pushing her to the floor, and sitting on her while holding her neck with one hand and a bottle of bleach with the other, according to court documents.
Suggs has not been charged with a crime, and he denies any wrongdoing.
Panthers. Carolina's Matt Moore will make his second consecutive start at quarterback tomorrow when the Panthers play at New England.
Jake Delhomme was declared out and missed his third straight day of practice with a broken right finger.
Former Eagles A.J. Feeley will back up Moore.
Elsewhere. Tennessee quarterback Vince Young is questionable for tomorrow's game against St. Louis after he hurt his sore right knee again. . . . Buffalo Bills starting left tackle Demetrius Bell (knee) was placed on injured reserve, ending his season.