The Pittsburgh Steelers went 13-3 during the regular season, losing only to the Chicago Bears in overtime on the road under complicated circumstances. At home, their only defeats were to the New England Patriots following a controversial call on an overturned score, and to the Jacksonville Jaguars, who dominated them defensively (including two defensive touchdowns) in an early-season game.
The Jaguars were also the only team they got to face in the postseason, beating them in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score indicated. This Steelers team hasn’t changed much since then (Le’Veon Bell, Ryan Shazier, and a few others such as Mike Mitchell won’t be on the field), but they have no intentions of bringing last season’s baggage with them to Jacksonville this week.
“Man, they’re just the next team on the list”, defensive captain Cameron Heyward said of the team’s upcoming game against the Jaguars on Sunday on the road. “You don’t take anything from last year because they’re a different team too. We’re a different team”.
2017 was the first time that the AFC South defending champions reached the postseason since 2007, Mike Tomlin’s first season as a head coach, and they eliminated the Steelers from the playoffs then as well. To this time, that result is no different than last year’s.
“Last year is last year”, Mike Hilton added, according to Ed Bouchette. “We’re a different team just like they’re a different team. We have to come in and prepare for them; they’re our next opponent and we have to be ready for next week”.
The Steelers, Mitchell most notably, were doing an awful lot of talking about the one team that really handled them last season before that postseason loss, to the point where Jaguars players were even commenting on the absurdity of their evident hubris.
Even though this Jaguars team that Pittsburgh is about to face has been struggling mightily this year, they are coming into Jacksonville with much more humility and much less hubris, simply on the road for a business trip and nothing more.
Rather than talking about how badly they are going to beat their opponent, they are instead discussing strategies about how to get the job done. Heyward focused first on the importance of stopping the run, after Leonard Fournette dominated them a year ago.
The first-round pick rushed for 181 yards and two touchdowns, including a 90-yard deal-sealer, on 28 carries against the Steelers back in Week Five. Despite all the talk about him not liking the cold, he came into Pittsburgh in January and rushed for another 109 yards with three more touchdowns.
That’s a far bigger concern than any residual bruises to the ego. And at least up to this point, the locker room has seemed to keep its head low about this matchup, even while the Jaguars are down.