With just three games remaining the Steelers find themselves controlling their own fate as far as the postseason goes, with this Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys the first step.
If the Steelers win out, they would secure a wild card playoff spot and still could win the AFC North division, depending on how the Baltimore Ravens finish out the season.
“These next few games we are in control of the rest of our journey,” said running back Jonathan Dwyer. “It’s a big emphasis for us to get this win, not just because of the situation, but because it’s the next game.
“I think there is a sense of urgency just because you want to win. We are still the same guys, the atmosphere is the same. But it’s December football. We know how important that is. You can tell from all of the guys. Coach (Mike) Tomlin doesn’t have to say anything. It just what it is.”
When December football rolls around, for teams in the playoff race, things escalate. The intensity picks up with more on the line and like Dwyer said, there is no need to preach the importance of games, especially with a veteran team that has been to the playoffs.
“December is the most important month of the season,” said receiver Plaxico Burress. “You want to be coming together and building a stretch run to get into the playoffs. You want to gather that confidence. We wanted to go out and win that game last week, but right now is a time we really want to be on the rise.
“We have a tough game in Dallas this weekend and then two home games. It’s a great opportunity for us to finish strong. As Coach Tomlin says the eventual world champion usually isn’t losing any more games at this point of the season. Guys understand the sense of urgency to go out and win this game and get on a run. It’s all about who gets hot this time of year. I have seen some crazy things happen and we definitely have the talent to do it. We just need to focus and make it happen.”
Houston, New England and Denver have already clinched playoff spots, but three spots remain in the AFC with Baltimore, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, New York and the Steelers leading the way for those last spots.
“We need to win every game,” said receiver Mike Wallace. “We don’t have time to lose a game and look around. When you look at the reality of things and the stretch, there are teams with the same or better record than us so we have to continue to handle what we can. As long as we handle our business, you don’t have to worry about what other teams do.”
The Steelers remaining schedule includes the Cowboys this week on the road, and then home games against AFC North rivals Cincinnati and Cleveland. If the Steelers are going to make the playoffs, getting hot now is a must.
“At this point of the season you have to start feeling it, get that second wind,” said Burress. “Everyone is looking to make it to the playoffs. Everyone is eyeing that trophy. Everyone is chasing it. Games are tougher now because teams know how critical they are.
“We just have to focus on us. If we go and win out, we don’t have anything to worry about and we don’t have to look over our shoulder. If we finish out strong we can write our own story.”