The Pittsburgh Steelers are facing a lot of pressure today. Not from the outside—well, yes, from the outside, though they’re not listening—but rather from within. They have dropped two games that they believe that they should have won, especially after beating the Buffalo Bills on the road to open the season.
So it doesn’t matter that on deck today is Aaron Rodgers, inarguably one of the greatest quarterbacks in the game, and the Green Bay Packers, who have been one of the perennial contenders in the NFC. They’re just the team standing in the way of them getting their next win, nothing more. Nameless. Gray. Faces.
That has been the focus for the team this week during practice, devoting their efforts to simply doing what it takes. “Just getting the W”, as third-year linebacker Devin Bush said. “Going out there and having the mindset of just, nothing matters that happened the week before. You’re going out there and just winning”.
It will help to get some major reinforcements on defense back this week, their two edge rushers in T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. Watt is inarguably one of the best defenders in the NFL, bar none, while Highsmith had an excellent offseason heading into year two and is ready to convert that performance into the games that count.
The energy in practice has been at a higher pitch, colored by the stakes, with a great sense of urgency. “Knowing that we’ve got to get a W, yeah”, it was felt, Bush said. Cameron Heyward, their defensive captain, also talked during the week about seeing people coming to practice focused and ready to work.
Will it make a difference? We’ll only know if they end up getting that W, a much-needed one considering that they are currently sitting at the bottom of the AFC North standings—I’m not quite sure when they’ve last owned sole possession of fourth place.
Their most recent loss, of course, was to the Cincinnati Bengals last week. They already played again this past Thursday, and are now 3-1, in sole possession of first place, pending the results of this weekend’s games for the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens.
Winning is about more than ‘want-to’. You also have to have the talent, the skill, the cohesion to be the better team on that particular day. You have to have the better plan. You have to make fewer mistakes. Maybe you even need more of the luck. But it will never be won just by having a good week of practice.