Steelers capture a favorable approval rating among NFL onlookers
Big wins against marquee teams can quickly change everything about a team, even one that is as reliably successful as the Steelers.
The mood in the locker room is perceptibly different. The confidence level is enhanced. The sideline takes on the feel and look of a winner. The league-wide perception is altered.
The Steelers' come-from-behind 24-20 win over the Super Bowl champion Giants and three-game winning streak convinced many around the NFL they're the real deal again, despite their earlier losses to Oakland and Tennessee.
“The Steelers are a big-game team. The bigger the stakes, the more they're in it,” NFL Network analyst Jamie Dukes said Wednesday. “(The Giants' game) just felt big. The Steelers bring an aura to the stage.”
The even-bigger games are about to begin, even as the second half of the season starts Monday night with a matchup against the Chiefs (1-7).
After that, the Steelers (5-3) meet the division-leading Ravens (6-2) twice in three weeks, and Dukes, longtime Dallas Cowboys player personnel chief Gil Brandt and former Pro Bowl safety Darren Sharper are convinced those games will decide the AFC North — and possibly more.
Just don't say “Ravens” to the Steelers. Not yet.
“We're not thinking about Baltimore. The word Baltimore or Ravens have not been said one time in this locker room,” receiver Emmanuel Sanders said.
Brandt is convinced the Steelers will win the division, something they couldn't do a year ago when Baltimore and Pittsburgh finished 12-4 but the Ravens swept the season series.
Brandt, an analyst for NFL.com and SiriusXM radio, and Dukes agree in predicting the Texans, Patriots, Steelers, Broncos, Ravens and Colts will end up as the six AFC playoff teams. Sharper, also an NFL Network analyst, is convinced the Steelers and Broncos will compete for the No. 2 seed.
“There are four teams in the AFC, and the rest of the guys are just tagging along,” said Dukes, a former NFL lineman said, referring to the Texans, Patriots, Steelers and Ravens.
The Steelers' longtime persona as a team whose sum is greater than its parts is re-emerging.
The running game has had a 100-yard back in three consecutive games, and the defense has allowed only three points in the fourth quarter in the past three games.
“They epitomize team,” Brandt said. “Ben Roethlisberger throws an interception, and who do I see charging down the field to make a tackle? (Rookie right tackle) Mike Adams. That is coaching. You talk about a team that drafts well, that seems to have a plan, (that figures out) who is going to take whose place down the line. They do a really, really good job, and it reflects in their record.”
The schedule also lines up favorably, with only one remaining opponent having a winning record. The Chiefs and Browns (2-7) are among the NFL's worst teams. And five of the final eight games are at Heinz Field, where the Steelers are 3-0.
“I think they're in great shape,” Brandt said. “But even if they were playing Green Bay and New England, I still think they would win the division.”
The early-season adversity — the Steelers started 2-3 — might have hardened them for the second half.
“The Steelers win in a couple of different ways, and that's the mantra, if you ask me, of a championship-caliber program,” Dukes said. “And that's what the Steelers have — a championship-caliber machine.”
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Inside the ropes: Shazier shows off speed
- Steelers notebook: Team hasn’t called on Keisel, Harrison yet
- Steelers hope new faces breathe life into team
- 1 intruder killed, other shot and wounded in Carrick home invasion
- Police say naked woman stabs three women during street fight in McKees Rocks
- Steelers’ Spence confident he can avoid injury setbacks
- Big Ten media days notebook: Commissioner discusses hot-button issues
- NFL notebook: Ex-Steeler Sanders picks Manning over Big Ben
- Pennsylvania Turnpike Southern Beltway extension gets funding
- Foreign influx in Allegheny County at ‘tipping point’
- Congressmen ask NCAA to relax PSU penalties