The Pittsburgh Steelers are 8-0. They’re happy about it. That’s about where it ends. Why? Not just because of the fact that they know that they have won some games without playing their best football, but also simply because they know that there is still so much of the season left. They are still 0-0 in the postseason, after all, and in fact, haven’t even qualified for the playoffs yet.
While it is understandable given the novelty of the situation, the Steelers being the last unbeaten team in the league, and being 8-0 for the first time in their history, the reality is that they keep getting asked week in and week out about what it’s like to be in this position, what it means to them, and players have to keep coming up with different ways of answering the variations of what essentially boils down to the same question.
Defensive tackle Cameron Heyward, I thought, provided one of his more thoughtful answers this past week on the most recent time that he has fielded the question, though not before offering a quip, saying, “it feels like we’re trying to qualify for the college playoff right now”.
“I don’t like to throw parties or hurrahs about halfway through the season when we’ve got a lot more work on our hands”, he said, “but I just like the way we’re progressing, being able to adjust and win games in different fashions, understanding that we’re not perfect in those, but we’re learning in those moments, and we’re still winning. I think that’s huge, and I hope it benefits us down the road”.
As he implies at the end, it remains to be seen how much the Steelers profit in the long run from having had to find a variety of ways to win, including, in the past two weeks, coming back from double-digit deficits, and entering the fourth quarter trailing. The past three games have been decided on the final play, with the defense the last unit to take the field, so that means the offense needs to start doing a better job closing games again.
But it is, I suppose, what they mean when pundits and coaches invoke the term ‘battle-tested’. Sometimes it’s better to take your lumps during the regular season so that when you’re into the games that really matter, you’ve already seen it all and you have gone through that process of adaptation and adjustment and evolution.
One thing the Steelers can’t be accused of is failure to make adjustments, and that’s been especially obvious offensively in the past two weeks with the 01 personnel that they have turned to and simply allowed quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to run the no-huddle offense.
They have gotten good results from that, and from other wrinkles like their 3-5-3 package on defense, so the more they can work on, the more they can iron out, the more options they will have down the road.