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For Haley, parallels between '89 Steelers, '11 Chiefs offer hope

Todd Haley is more than just the man who has permitted his five o'clock shadow to develop into a woodsman's beard during the Chiefs' three-game winning streak. Kansas City's coach also is a man of history.

Following an 0-2 start this season in which last year's AFC West champs were outscored 89-10, Haley's memory was tweaked by a distant Steelers team that experienced an unlikely reversal of fortunes in 1989.

That Pittsburgh team screamed disaster early on, losing to the Browns 51-0 in the opener before being crushed by the Bengals 41-10 in Week 2. From there, coach Chuck Noll's embattled players regrouped with a 9-5 record down the stretch to win an AFC wild-card berth.

Haley -- whose dad served as the Steelers' director of player personnel back then -- was moved by the parallel. So he gathered his players after their rough start and played the 17-minute NFL Films highlight reel of Pittsburgh's roller-coaster campaign. Something clicked, and the Chiefs are 3-1 since.

"I thought it was such a great picture of how low and as much despair as you could feel, and you could see it on the tape," Haley told The Kansas City Star. "You were hearing some of the same things that we had heard. And to see how it ends, with the pure joy of guys ... grown men jumping up and down who were able to turn a really bad, bad start into a great season."

Will the Chiefs match it? We don't know, but until they falter, Haley's beard expands with every victory in one of this season's most delightful subplots.

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