While quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has never been on a 9-0 team before, the 17th-year Pittsburgh Steelers veteran does know what it’s like to go through the regular season without losing a game. As a rookie in 2004, he started and won 13 games in a year in which the team went 15-1 overall—before losing to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game.
So perhaps he knows a thing or two about what he’s saying when he talked to reporters earlier today and made it clear that the team making it through the regular season without a loss to their name is not the goal that they are focused on; their goal is a little bit loftier than that.
“Personally, the goal isn’t to go undefeated, right?”, he said earlier today. “The goal is to win the Super Bowl. We’re just going one week at a time. We’re not worried about anything other than this week. You look at the past history of this game, and it hasn’t been pretty for us. We have yet to play a really good game against these guys. I’m hungry to come out and get this game”.
That is, of course, the long-term, season-long goal. The localized goal every week is to go 1-0 in your next game, and so if you stack up goal after goal, you do eventually get to a perfect record. But 18-1 with a Super Bowl trophy looks a lot better than 18-1 without one. Right, Eli Manning?
While it certainly hasn’t always been pretty, the Steelers have so far conquered every challenge set forth in front of them this season, defeating three teams with winning records and six teams…um…without. They can, of course, only play who is on their schedule.
Up next is a 1-8 Jacksonville Jaguars team that is starting a rookie quarterback due to injury. Jake Luton is making his third consecutive start, and while he has made a couple of notable throws, he has a 0.8 passer rating when under pressure, and no, that is not a typo. Oh, and he has been under pressure on a third of his dropbacks.
The Steelers also cannot afford to tap the brakes thanks to the Kansas City Chiefs. While every other team in the AFC has had the good grace to ensure that they have lost at least three games this season, the defending Super Bowl champions stubbornly sit at 8-1, with just one blemish in a loss to their divisional opponents, the Las Vegas Raiders.
If Pittsburgh has ambitions of securing the number one seed, and thereby claiming homefield advantage and the only postseason bye in the conference, then they have to keep ahead of Patrick Mahomes and company.
And the best way to do that—the best way to reach the long-term goal of winning the Super Bowl—is to keep achieving the local, weekly goal of going 1-0.