Whatever happened two weeks ago, it doesn’t matter now. Mason Rudolph taking a blow to the head from Myles Garrett, that’s not the story the Pittsburgh Steelers are taking into tomorrow’s game against the Cleveland Browns. The fact that they came out on the bottom in that one, 21-7, isn’t relevant, either. There’s only one focus.
“Hopefully, we’re just concerned with trying to get this W, because that should be the only thing we’re concerned with”, defensive captain Cameron Heyward told reporters from the locker room yesterday. The Steelers are sitting at 6-5, currently in a four-way tie with the Oakland Raiders, the Indianapolis Colts, and the Tennessee Titans. They’re in position to claim a wildcard spot, but there is no margin for error.
It is their own fault, of course. They lost their first three games, and four of their first five, even with Ben Roethlisberger on the field in the first week and a half. They did have a frontloaded schedule—none of the first four teams they’ve lost to have more than two losses—but that doesn’t make their record any more valuable.
“We’ve done a good job of just focusing on one game”, Heyward said. “To get ourselves in such a hole so quick, so early, the main thing we could do was just worry about one game. Just keep trying to dig ourselves out of this hole. We finally go over .500, and now we’ve got to stay that way”.
They actually got over .500 a few weeks ago, but the loss in Cleveland dropped them back down to an even record. The Browns can do the same thing again tomorrow, this time in Pittsburgh, in doing so also bringing themselves back up to .500 for the first time in a month.
“Both teams want to win this game”, Heyward said. That’s true for almost every game ever played, with the possible exception of teams who are tanking or who have nothing to play for at the end of the year, but his meaning here is understood. Both sides will come out highly motivated for this one, because their season is pretty much on the line.
After this one, the Steelers go against two teams on hot streaks in the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets after taking a trip out west to face the Arizona Cardinals and an improving Kyler Murray. It would be foolish to take any of these games lightly.