BOSTON (CBS) – The Steelers aren’t playing at nearly the level fans expect from them, but then again until Sunday, neither were the Patriots.
But, as bad as the Pats have looked over the past few weeks, at least they’re stringing together wins. If you’re a Pittsburgh fan like me, Sunday’s game was a difficult one to watch.
Along with the Patriots, Pittsburgh is typically considered one of the more consistent franchises, but this year, something is different. Something feels different. The once electric rivalry between these two teams felt almost nonexistent Sunday. If you look back over the past 10 years, many would categorize these two teams among the most successful, but it appears one of these two teams has hit a downward spiral, while the other looks like they may finally be back on track.
Sunday’s game was a day of execution in more ways than one. The Patriots executed the little things that haven’t been coming together for them recently, resulting in 55 points and 610 total yards, the most ever put up against the Steelers in their 81 year history.
After the game Tom Brady recognized, “it was our best day of execution. You don’t wake up in the morning and think they’re going to be like that. That was pretty sweet.”
“That’s what we have to do going forward,” Brady continued. “That’s how you put a lot of pressure on these defenses: to go out and execute like that.”
Pittsburgh sits at the bottom of the AFC North, a place they’ve been before, but certainly aren’t accustomed to. A turnaround isn’t unheard of—they did it in 2006 during Coach Cowher’s final year going 6-2 in the second half of the season finishing at 8-8. It’ll take nothing short of a miracle for that to happen for them this year.
I had to find out for myself what was going on with this Pittsburgh team, so I caught up with a few players after the game to see what they had to say.
I asked safety Troy Polamalu what the biggest factor was in turning their season around, and all he said was “winning.” I asked quarterback Ben Roethlisberger the same question, and he gave me the same answer, “win.”
Seeking a third opinion, receiver Antonio Brown agreed. The answer was so simple, but the task at hand seems nearly impossible this year for them.
As their record dips to a lowly 2-6, I asked Roethlisberger what the goal is now. He said, “keep fightin’. Don’t give up. We can’t give up.”
Roethlisberger is the leader and he needs to make sure his team doesn’t throw in the towel on the season. He better have that pep talk soon because from where I sat, it sure looked like many of his teammates gave up in the fourth quarter.
And to think at one point they were knotted up at 24.
When I asked Polamalu what the team needs to do to pick themselves up as they look ahead to Buffalo (3-6), who also sits at the bottom of their division, he said, “well, its cliché, but we need to take it one day at a time, one game at a time. Hopefully next week will be a better week for us.”
I wanted to follow up by asking how could it possibly get much worse for the Steelers, but with the level of intensity looming in that room, I didn’t want to risk him stuffing me in his locker.
I think wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery summed that question up best.
“The focus is getting a win. That is the only thing we care about, getting a win,” he said. “So, we just have to go back to the drawing board and get ready for next week.”
Patriots fans and Pittsburgh fans have two things in common: they’ve been spoiled by winning teams and they hold their teams to extremely high standards. At the start of this season it was clear Brady had lost all of his weapons; Gronk was down, Welker was gone, and a new set of rookie receivers took the field. But the same can be said for Pittsburgh. Rashard Mendenhall was gone, Mike Wallace took his talent, if you can still call it that, to Miami and there was no more James Harrison to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks.
There is one difference though. Brady and company keep finding ways to win while the Steelers haven’t figured out how to put a decent game together from the first snap to the last.
After Sunday, the Patriots have some good momentum heading into their bye week, while Pittsburgh needs to think long and hard about how they’re going to avoid more dents in what was once considered a Steel Curtain.
Tracy Clements is a weekend producer on 98.5 The Sports Hub. You can follow her on twitter at @clementine_12.