The Pittsburgh Steelers have as many losses as they have wins, and they’re about two thirds of the way through the season. That’s not where you want to be, to say the least, but given how their last game ended, it’s been hard for some, at least on the outside, to keep the perspective that actually matters from that game is that they lost.
Whether or not he needed to or not, head coach Mike Tomlin tried to make that clear to his players as they came in for work this week. Whatever Myles Garrett may have done, that is that. The loss doesn’t count any less, doesn’t affect them any less. And it doesn’t change the focus on what is up ahead, starting with a road game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
While Tomlin delivered that message, defensive captain Cameron Heyward said it wasn’t really necessary, because that’s where the locker room was already. In a sit-down interview with Missi Matthews, he said of the head coach’s message, “I think it was received, but we were already thinking that. We had a long weekend to think about that game, so coming in Monday, I thought everybody addressed it and moved forward. We’ve got a lot of important games coming up. We’ve just got to focus on that”.
Of course, those comments to Matthews were also made before media sources leaked accounts of Garrett’s suspension appeal hearing, which revealed that he had claimed Mason Rudolph used a racial epithet, setting out yet another wave of news surrounding something that happened during the game well after the result—a loss, remember—was in hand.
Unfortunately, that mean another round of questions for players to answer, another distraction for the mission ahead, which is making sure they are prepared to defeat the Bengals. Cincinnati may be winless this year, but if they don’t pay attention, that could change.
You never want to be the team to lose to a winless franchise any more than you do want to be the team to take down an undefeated team, but that’s immaterial in comparison to the simple fact that they can ill afford to drop a game.
Currently, the Steelers sit in the eighth spot in the conference standings, two out of a postseason berth. They are three games behind the Baltimore Ravens for the division lead, while the Buffalo Bills, whom they play in four weeks, are up two in the loss column.
Currently in position for the sixth seed is the Oakland Raiders, who have perhaps the softest remaining schedule of those in contention, at 6-4, one game ahead. The Steelers got a bit of help with the Houston Texans beating the Indianapolis Colts last night, sending them to 6-5, meaning if they take care of the Bengals, they will pass them in the standings.
As for the Raiders, they play on the road against the New York Jets, who at least are on a two-game winning streak, now 3-7 on the season. Those wins, however, have come against two of the worst teams in football—the bottom half of the NFC East.