A couple of days away from practice, a free weekend, a chance to take a quick trip or just reset mentally, spirits are high in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ locker room. Speaking to reporters Monday as the team returned to practice, FS Minkah Fitzpatrick said he could feel an increased energy level in the locker room.
“Of course when you get a couple days off after going two, three months straight with only one day off at a time, everybody’s energy is a little bit higher,” he said via the team website.
Normally, players only have Tuesday as an official “off day.” Though Mike Tomlin had the group practice through last Wednesday, the team had Thursday through Saturday off in addition to tomorrow’s normally scheduled off day. For a 2-6 squad that’s won just one of their last six games, perhaps a reset is the most important thing the team could’ve had.
But Fitzpatrick understands having energy on a Monday is one thing. Carrying that over to and through Sundays is what really matters.
“We gotta keep that energy high and obviously it starts with winning. Doing our job.”
The chance to turn the Steelers’ season around comes this Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. On paper, Pittsburgh should be in a strong position. They’re coming off a bye week while New Orleans will be working on a short week, travelling to Pittsburgh after playing the Baltimore Ravens in tonight’s Monday night game. The Saints have dealt with several injuries, including to WR Michael Thomas and are 2-5 since their Week One opening win.
But the Saints are still slight road favorites over the Steelers thanks to an offense that’s been far more productive, averaging nearly 25 points per game, ten points higher than what Pittsburgh’s managed this season. The Steelers’ second half of the schedule looks more forgiving but Pittsburgh’s done well to beat themselves, especially the last two weeks, with penalties and unforced errors.
“We just gotta go out there, keep that high energy, win football games and we’ll start to turn this thing around.”
2-6 is a crooked number to look at. But the last two times Pittsburgh’s started a season 2-6, 2006 and 2013, they finished it 8-8 with strong second halves of the year. On today’s Terrible Podcast, Dave Bryan and myself mapped out the back half of the Steelers’ season. Dave predicted Pittsburgh would go 5-4 to finish 7-10 while I predicted they’d go 4-5 to end up at 6-11. Either scenario would be small victories to end the year though it would also result in a worse draft pick and likely have the Steelers picking closer to #10 than the top five and missing out on a blue-chip prospect.
But the Steelers have to approach things one step at a time and a loss to the Saints this weekend would quickly bring the energy level down again.