The Pittsburgh Steelers haven’t simply lost two in a row, preceded by a tie. They have fallen to .500 on the season, and tied in winning percentage for last place in the AFC North. They are outside of a postseason berth, and their schedule does not get easier from here on out.
And up next is the Baltimore Ravens, leading the conference, on Sunday Night Football. The stakes are high. Its…
“A must win. Is that what you were gonna ask?”, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said to a reporter on Wednesday during his media availability period. “It is. Everything moving forward has to be that way. That’s the hole we’ve kind of put ourselves in, that every game has to be the most important game of the year. We all need to approach it that way”.
In other words, the Steelers are in playoff mode. With six games left to play. Because they can’t afford not to be. Not after coming out of a second three-game stretch this season during which they failed to win even one game. After beating the Buffalo Bills in the opener, they lost three straight. Then they went on a four-game run before tying the winless Detroit Lions, and then dropping back-to-back games to the Los Angeles Chargers and the Cincinnati Bengals, each of whom put up 41 points. And yet while they need to run the gauntlet, doing so requires a narrow focus.
“We can’t worry about making runs. We have to worry about winning one game”, Roethlisberger said. “If we sit there and look at, ‘okay, we’ve got this many games left. We have to finish with this’, then you’re looking past the right here and now. That’s the most important thing for us right now is this game, this week, this opponent. You just kind of have to let everything fall into place from there, from one week at a time”.
That attitude is, of course, eternally applicable, but it’s especially important when the margin for error is at or near zero, which is certainly the case for their current predicament. It has to be when you’re sitting at .500 in the second half of the season.
And Sunday is just the first of two games against the Ravens, with matchups against the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tennessee Titans still to come. They had better not even remotely consider taking the 6-6 Cleveland Browns lightly, either, nor the under-.500 Minnesota Vikings.