Steelers Working to Overcome Emotional Letdown

Pittsburgh shifting focus to Bengals

Josh Rowntree
December 27, 2018 - 1:53 pm
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) and center Maurkice Pouncey (53) before the start of the game against the Oakland Raiders at Oakland Coliseum.

Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

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Following a dramatic, come-from-behind win in Jacksonville on November 18, the Steelers were 7-2-1. Pittsburgh’s lead in the AFC North sat at two full games. Despite a difficult back half of the season, it seemed the AFC North crown, once again, would reside in Pittsburgh. 

Then, a meltdown. The Steelers blew a lead in Denver, an even bigger one the following week against the Chargers and then dropped a total debacle in Oakland. 

Now, after an impressive win over New England and, perhaps, an even more impressive loss in New Orleans, Pittsburgh is in need of help to get into the postseason at all.

“Obviously it’s definitely deflating,” guard David DeCastro said Wednesday. “I’m not going to sit here and say it’s not and lie to you. It was tough. It’s been a long season and we’ve put a lot of effort in, especially the last game… At the same time, you have to keep going.”

Pittsburgh will keep going, right into Sunday’s meeting with rival Cincinnati at Heinz Field. The Steelers must win that game and have Cleveland win in Baltimore. 

“You just have to know there’s a chance,” DeCastro added. “As bad as you feel now, you’ll feel a lot worse if Baltimore loses and you lose, too.”

One of the more pressing challenges against the Steelers — besides winning the game — is simply getting over the emotional lull caused by their current playoff situation. 

“The more you play, there’s so many ups and downs in football,” center Maurkice Pouncey added. “We all know it. Trust me, it still sucks right now to even talk to you guys about it. But by the time (Thursday) comes and by the time the end of the week comes, you’ve got to get over it.

“You’ve got to move past it, you’ve got to lock all the way in to your assignments and who you play this week, because everybody in the NFL can play football.”

Pittsburgh can’t afford to come out flat against the Bengals, despite Cincinnati’s 6-9 record. Emotionally, the Steelers started the week in a valley that they’ll need to climb out of.

“I think it’s one of those things where you go down and build up as the week goes on,” DeCastro said. “It hurts. I think everyone put a lot of energy, not only into this game, but this season, in general. To have it go the way it’s gone is a little deflating. But, at the end of the day, it’s not over. We realize that, too. We’ve got to pick it up as the week goes on.”

“The mood is totally fine,” Pouncey countered. “Obviously guys are a little pissed off because we did control our own destiny and now we’ve got to go out and win a football game and hope for another team to win.”

The team’s quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, is in agreement that they to keep a singular focus on what they can control Sunday.

“Just treat it like a normal week,” he said. “Know that you’ve got a big game. It’s an AFC North opponent. If you have to psych yourself up to get fired up for that game, then something’s wrong with you.”

It’s not as if the Steelers have come out of the gates slow in games this year. The tie in Cleveland, the loss at home to the Chiefs, a slow start in a home loss to Baltimore all bogged down the early part of the season.

They even started slow against the Bengals in a thrilling, last-minute win in Cincinnati on October 14. So, even with the result of its own game being equally significant to the Ravens-Browns game, Pittsburgh does not have the luxury of scoreboard watching come Sunday.

“We’re all aware of the situation, we know what we need to do,” Pouncey said. “Hopefully the story will be told on Sunday.”