One of the common themes that we heard from players in their post-game interviews yesterday was that they appreciated being 6-0, being undefeated, even were excited by it, but they found it hard to celebrate becoming the final unbeaten team in the AFC (and later in the league) when they barely escaped with a win, and only avoided blowing a 20-point lead because of a missed field goal from 45 yards out.
This was the universal message that we heard, especially from the defensive players, who allowed the Tennessee Titans to score 17 unanswered points in the second half and nearly allowed a comeback field goal drive at the end. But it was from offensive players as well, who were limited to just three points.
And according to David DeCastro, that sentiment wasn’t coming from head coach Mike Tomlin. It was coming from the players themselves. “Coach Tomlin’s always pretty much saying to celebrate every win, every victory”, he said, via video supplied by the team’s PR department. At least when he’s speaking to his players.
“I think the players, we’re kind of hard on ourselves this year”, he went on. “I think we have high expectations for ourselves, offense and defense. I think that’s good. Like I said, no one’s complacent right now. As long as we’re staying grounded and just looking to get better”.
Each of the past two games have been the Pittsburgh Steelers’ ‘biggest of the season’, first a key divisional matchup against a 4-1 Cleveland Browns team, followed yesterday by a road game against an undefeated Tennessee Titans squad.
But now they have a 5-1 Baltimore Ravens team on their hands, on the road, and with their opponents coming off of a bye week. This is the biggest game of the season. If they win, they have clear control of the division, a two-game lead with a game in-hand. If they lost, they are tied in record and fall to second place due to the head-to-head loss—and thus slip into wildcard territory.
“We know we’ve got a big test this week”, DeCastro said. “We’ve got a decently old group of veteran guys on both sides of the ball, but it’s one game at a time, whether you win or lose. Just be professional and get better”.
I will admit that one thing that has been on my mind is how the Steelers will play on the road. They had four consecutive home games, mostly against sub-par opponents, and their only road game was against a very bad New York Giants team, although at least they had Saquon Barkley at the time.
The road win over the Titans is significant, but so is the fact that they almost blew it. If they can take down the Ravens in Baltimore, coming off a physical game and with the Ravens having a bye, that would be a true statement that this team will stack up against anybody.