Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said that he was somewhat looking forward to flying under the radar this season, with expectations being lowered coming off a non-playoff season and the Cleveland Browns being hyped up. Joe Haden also said he thought they could use the underdog tag to their advantage.
Cameron Heyward doesn’t care about any of that. At the risk of sending conflicting messages from the team leadership, when the veteran defensive captain was asked about the team’s status in the public perception this year, and if he felt like an underdog, he had a clear response, as Jeremy Fowler shared.
“I feel like a Steeler”, he said. “I don’t care who we play, overdog, underdog, whatever”.
The Steelers took the practice field with an edge Tuesday. Asked if he feels like an underdog, DE Cam Heyward said, ‘I feel like a Steeler. I don’t care who we play – overdog, underdog, whatever.’ pic.twitter.com/AUmZyR3cq5
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) May 21, 2019
Whether the Steelers have been underestimated or overestimated, it hasn’t gotten them any more Lombardi trophies, so it doesn’t really matter, I suppose. The only thing that matters is maximizing your opportunities to beat your opponent for each game, whether you are perceived to be better or worse than them. it doesn’t matter if you’re better if you still lose. It doesn’t matter if you’re worse if you still win.
To feel like a Steelers means, or at least is supposed to mean, to feel like a winner. Pittsburgh is the winningest franchise of the Super Bowl era, after all, and they own as many trophies since then as anybody else, even if that distinction is more under threat than ever this year after the New England Patriots claimed their sixth Super Bowl.
Why are Roethlisberger, Haden, and Heyward saying different things about the public perception of the team? The answer is really simple. Different people are motivated by different things. Some people are motivated by being counted out. For others, it might not matter much.
I don’t think it’s something that Heyward has ever particularly cared about, so his comment is not surprising. He has always been a tunnel-vision kind of player, not worried about what anybody is thinking, or really anything else other than simply winning the next game and carrying out your assignments, both individually and as a team.
That doesn’t mean he speaks for everyone, though. Frankly, I think a lot of people in the AFC North, including players from the Baltimore Ravens and even the Cincinnati Bengals, have been fueled by the Cleveland hype, a team that has not posted a winning record in over a decade and, at least in this incarnation, has never even won a single division title, reaching the postseason once.