Win in Cincinnati not enough to alter Steelers' perspective
By Mike Prisuta
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
The Steelers did everything but talk a good game in Cincinnati.
Postgame reaction to their 27-13 thumping of the Bengals on Sunday afternoon was muted, relative to what you'd expect from a team that had come to town determined to establish that the balance of power in the AFC North Division hadn't shifted just yet.
There were a few "the road to the division championship still runs through Pittsburgh" acknowledgements in the visitor's locker room, but none were issued as in-your-face declarations.
What was said mostly about the Bengals was "they're a good football team."
It wasn't an accident.
"We gotta stay on top of our game," safety Mike Logan said. "We can't get that over-confidence about us, and with the veteran leaders on this team, it won't happen."
Wonder where that came from?
"We know we have to bring our 'A' game every week," coach Bill Cowher said, as always.
Apparently, Cowher has been in a few big games before, although he won't be in many more until January.
The rest of the Steelers' schedule features games against two teams with winning records over the course of the final 10, at Indianapolis (7-0) on Nov.28 and the rematch with Cincinnati (5-2) on Dec. 4 at Heinz Field.
As for the rest, Baltimore (2-4) and Cleveland (2-4) are division rivals, but they're out-classed, over-matched division rivals.
Green Bay (1-5) and Minnesota (2-4) are brutal.
Chicago (3-3) and Detroit (3-3) are .500 at present but appear incapable of much more than that, if they're able to even maintain a break-even pace (given the inept collection in the NFC North that's at least a possibility).
That's a gauntlet of mediocrity compared to the Murderers' Row stretch of schedule the Steelers just exited (New England, at San Diego, Jacksonville and at Cincinnati).
After splitting with what figured to be four of the five best teams on their schedule, the Steelers are in a comfortable position at 4-2.
What they can't afford to become is comfortable, and the Steelers know it.
If they practice what they preach, a final regular-season record of 13-3 isn't unrealistic.
That may not be enough to earn the Steelers home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, but it should get them at least a No. 2 seed.
But if they begin thinking too far ahead and become a little too impressed with the way they kept the first-place Bengals in their place and allow preparation to become affected, the Steelers are asking for trouble.
The emotion and urgency the Steelers displayed in Cincinnati helped propel them to a 15-1 record a season ago.
The same approach can yield similar results, but there remains a great deal of football to be played before those results can be achieved.
Taking them for granted is about the only thing that can screw this up.