Coaches always point out the increase in intensity throughout each stage of a football season. From spring OTAs, that’s really when the season starts, to training camp, the preseason, regular season, and playoffs. The Pittsburgh Steelers have been in their own personal playoff race for pretty much the entire win streak.
I’m not sure that they’d be here today if they lost any of those games, sans the finale against the Cleveland Browns. They’re used to playing for their football lives.
But that feeling takes another jump Sunday when they travel up to Foxboro.
“It is definitely more intense at practice,” Stephon Tuitt said via Steelers.com. “It’s not about money, it’s not about just going out and saying you’re playing in this game. This is about having a chance to make history. We have a chance to make history. Especially for Steelers’ Nation, they’re very excited, you can feel that energy from the fans, you can feel that energy from inside the locker room from the coaches and the players who were apart of the last Super Bowl.”
And that’s coming from Tuitt, who wouldn’t be considered a veteran on most teams and has never played in this game before. But without Cam Heyward on the field, Tuitt is the veteran in the Steelers’ locker room, and he’s seemed to embrace that role.
“60 minutes away. Trust me, guys eyes are going to be so wide. Heartbeats, you’re going to hear a pin drop. People are going to be ready to go. That’s going to be the fun part. Especially when we’re going against the Patriots. Who else is a better opponent to go to the Super Bowl than to go through the Patriots?”
No eyes will probably be wider than the rookies on defense, going through the whirlwind of the season and playing more than they ever did in college. But Artie Burns isn’t worried.
“He’s a savvy vet,” Burns said of Tom Brady. “That’s what savvy vets do. They go after rookies. I’m prepared for it. It’s a challenge, I just got to be ready.”
It’s a fine line to walk between taking the game with the seriousness it deserves versus being too uptight and nervous, hurting performance. But with the leadership and culture created, and the fact the young guys have done well on two big stages already, it’s a positive sign going into New England.