This Pittsburgh Steelers’ team sure plays with an edge. Why wouldn’t they? Once Ben Roethlisberger went done, it was assume the season was over. Talking heads took it a step further when the then 0-2, Roethlisberger-less Steelers sent a first rounder for Minkah Fitzpatrick. They were painted as desperate, flailing, a rudderless ship without a captain.
Now look at them. 7-5, currently seated in the AFC’s 6th seed, and no longer hearing any “doubt” from analysts. Cam Heyward, one of their team leaders, embodies the “chip on the shoulder” mentality.
“I love that at the beginning of the year, everybody was counting us out,” Heyward told reporters via Steelers.com. “Everybody was ready to throw in the towel. Not a lot of teams come back from 0-3.”
As we noted in our stats of the weird article Monday, since 2007, there have been 66 teams to start a season 1-4. Only four of them, including this year’s Steelers, made their way back to 7-5. Only five of those 66 teams went on to make the playoffs, putting Pittsburgh in rare company if they make the dance.
But Heyward knows there’s plenty of work to be done if the team wants to actually get there. Travelling to Arizona won’t be easy, Buffalo is emerging as a stout team with their own coach of the year candidate, the Jets are improving, and Baltimore will be tough regardless of who’s playing, starters or backups.
“We have to keep answering the call. Keep making people regret [counting us out].”
In his defensive linemen room, Heyward credited the job Javon Hargrave, Tyson Alualu, and Isaiah Buggs have done to fill Stephon Tuitt’s shoes. Despite his loss, Pittsburgh remains on pace for a franchise-record 57 sacks.
Answering the call begins this weekend against Kyler Murray and the Cardinals. Their offense isn’t overwhelming but unique with plenty of run-game alternatives and QB runs that most teams don’t employ. We’ll have a full scouting report on them tomorrow morning.