The Pittsburgh Steelers are on the verge of elimination from postseason consideration. While they do have a meaningful game to play in Week 17, they no longer have control over their own fate as a result of yesterday’s loss to the New York Jets. That’s all on them.
What is to follow no longer is. But they can’t focus on that. While they may need help from the Tennessee Titans—or more accurately, from the Houston Texans, who must beat them—whatever happens in that AFC South game will not mean anything (or at least, it’s extremely unlikely to) unless they are able to beat the Baltimore Ravens.
That’s what they need to focus on. That’s the only thing they can afford to focus on. And to a man, in the locker room, and from the coaching staff, that appears to be squarely where their attention is being placed, even in the immediate aftermath of this gut punch of a loss.
“We’re done worrying about what other people are doing. I think it’s time to focus, and it’s been this whole season, just to focus on us and to figure stuff out and find ways to win football games”, said T.J. Watt, who delivered the most significant play of the game with a strip sack that he recovered himself.
“I’m proud of some of the things that we’ve been able to do, but it’s not enough”, he went on, also speaking to the fact that each phase of the game must play complementary football in order to produce a win. “We’ve got to go back to the film and get those things corrected as quickly as possible and move on”.
While there are a lot of little things that often add up to a defeat, it’s fair to say that the single biggest factor in the Steelers’ struggles this season has been the post-Ben Roethlisberger play at the quarterback position, with neither Mason Rudolph nor Devlin Hodges having been able to deliver consistent enough performances. Both have now been benched for the other, which pretty much says it all.
But even that can’t be the focus. If the quarterback position is an area of weakness, then that simply means that the rest of the team has to elevate its play and pick them up. That means the line providing adequate protection, receivers making plays. The running game needs to take the pressure off, and the defense needs to keep the score down while they work with the special teams to provide good field position.
Often enough, they haven’t gotten all the pieces to fall into place at the same time, and that’s why they’re looking at potentially another season without the postseason. But the best opportunity they have of reaching the postseason is to focus only on one thing: themselves, and winning their next game.