We are now several weeks removed from the Pittsburgh Steelers’ road loss to the Cleveland Browns, which took place in the earlier portions of November. They have won both of their games played since then, including a home rematch against the Browns, and are looking to make it six straight, number three coming up tomorrow against the Arizona Cardinals.
It wasn’t the loss so much as the final 14 seconds, however, that served as a galvanizing moment for this team. It all came to a head—pun intended—when a scuffle between Mason Rudolph and Myles Garrett escalated to assault.
In a flash, everything suddenly became more than football, a feeling that quite a few of the players in the Steelers’ locker room had, and that one instance was yet another wakeup call for the group, an event that brought them closer together.
Fifth-year outside linebacker Bud Dupree spoke to that fact when he appeared on Good Morning Football earlier this week. “It just made guys realize that we’ve got to get that bond back tighter together”, he said, emphasizing the long list of trials they’ve gone through all year.
“When that situation happened, a lot of guys really felt a certain type of way”, he went on. “It made people gel that much closer together, because we’ve got to have each other’s back. We’re all we got on the field, and through the adversity that we’ve been going through this whole year, starting back to training camp, that just made it that much more for us to go out and just compete to the highest level”.
There was no clearer example of how the Steelers felt about what happened than in the way that they backed Maurkice Pouncey, who was suspended for two games (reduced from three) after he went after Garrett following his helmet strike to Rudolph’s head. Not only did they keep his jersey in the locker room, and sported ‘Free Pouncey’ shirts, they awarded him the game ball—delivered to his house by Cameron Heyward—after they took down the Browns two weeks later.
Pouncey’s now back, and he’s been embraced by his teammates. They understand that what he did was a reaction, a desire to have his teammate’s back, and that impulse has been one of the driving forces behind this team’s unlikely success over the course of the past two months.
During that span, the Steelers have gone 6-1, and have positioned themselves to make a legitimate run at a wildcard spot, something that seemed like a fairy tale after getting off to a 1-4 record and looking like a lost season with Ben Roethlisberger down and out.