Players don’t like to lose games. You don’t get to this level of the profession and make a career out of it without having at least some type of competitive instinct, which triggers in you a negative reaction when you do not accomplish your goal. Basically, guys don’t like to lose.
And it’s even worse when you lose and then you keep losing. Stacking losses is the exact opposite of what you want to do, and is exactly what the Pittsburgh Steelers are doing right now. They have dropped three games in a row, including against two teams with losing records, and there is little confidence from the outside that they can win their next two game—or even one of their next two.
That’s a pretty start reality considering the fact that, basically for weeks now, they have virtually had it set up that they would merely have to win a game in order to lock themselves into the AFC North crown. Now, based on our Buy or Sell column yesterday, the fan money is on them losing both games and the Cleveland Browns winning the division.
The players, of course, cannot afford to think this way. They don’t like losing, and that affects them, but head coach Mike Tomlin explained during his pre-game press conference yesterday the process of responding to a loss.
“Each week, we wipe the slate clean”, he said. “On Wednesday morning when we start the process preparing for the next opponent that’s where we are. That’s regardless of circumstance, win or lose. Sure, there’s some residue based on last night’s performance. I would expect there to be. That just means that you care, and it means that you recognize that we haven’t performed well enough”.
“On Wednesday morning when we walk in this door, we are singularly focused on the next opportunity of being the professionals that we are and understanding we have the capabilities to rectify all circumstances that we are in”.
Easier said than done, as always—and probably easier to do than to convince the fans that it’s done, as well. But whatever it takes to accomplish, there is one thing that is clear, and that is the goal moving forward: score a victory over the Indianapolis Colts.
If you pull that off, you pretty much lock yourself into where you need to be. If the Steelers beat the Colts, they guarantee themselves the AFC North title. They also more or less guarantee that they will be the number three seed. The Tennessee Titans are 10-4, and thus could finish no better than 12-4, and Pittsburgh would of course have the tiebreaker.
The only thing to play for in week 17 then would be the possibility of wresting the two seed away from the Buffalo Bills, which would require that they lose one of the next two games, though that isn’t unrealistic, against the Patriots and Dolphins. Buffalo has already logged up the AFC East, while the Dolphins are still fighting for the postseason at 9-5.