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5 for Friday: Quitting never an option for Steelers

Two months ago, when the Steelers sat at 2-6, there were a lot of fans who wanted the team to continue losing in order to improve its draft position next year.

The Steelers didn't take that advice and now find themselves still playing meaningful games with the calendar turning to January.

A win on Sunday night against the Ravens would mean the Steelers have completely reversed their record from the first half, going 6-2 over their last eight games. And if things fall correctly Sunday afternoon – ie. both the Dolphins and Jets losing – with a win, the Steelers could head into the final weekend of the NFL regular season with a chance to make the playoffs and finish with a winning record.

Of course, there are still those out there who don't want the team to make the postseason because they won't be the favorite to win the Super Bowl. Many of those were the same people who wanted the team to continue losing to get a "better" draft pick.

That's just not in the DNA of the Steelers organization.

"If you know this organization, you know the core group of people that are here, there's never any give up from the front office to the players," said veteran Steelers defensive lineman Tyson Alualu. "No matter how bad it was getting for us, the outside noise saying those things. You hear a lot of that. It's true for some other organizations that try, not so much to tank, but try to get into better positioning and set up for next year. 

"Since I've been here, it's always been about, no matter who is on that field, we're going to come out and compete and go down fighting. As much as we would have wanted it to be better early in the year to be in better position, it still gives us that fighting chance. It says a lot about our coach, the organization and the players, never giving up and just continuing to fight."

It starts at the top of the organization and has roots that go deep throughout the locker room.

That, in fact, is the Steeler Way. You hear so much about it. Some say it no longer exists. But watching this team fight its way back into playoff contention shows that it does.

It's something that is passed from generation of players to the next.

"I don't think it's really me just passing it on," said defensive lineman Cam Heyward, the main purveyor of the Steelers way within the locker room. "It's just living in it. There's a respect there that I was given as a young guy coming to this team. I think you know what you need to uphold. You want to be a part of that. To be a part of it, you have to give of yourself."

It's why there was such an outpouring of respect to Franco Harris last week given by players who weren't even close to being born when Harris was helping this franchise win Super Bowls.

It's not always verbalized, but it's always understood. The older generation passes those values along to the younger generation in that locker room.

"There were certain ways of them saying you need to do it," Heyward admitted. "But embracing it and understanding that being part of such a historical team, there's a way we do things around here. There's a way you go about carrying on the legacy."

And embracing and carrying on that legacy means you don't quit and play for next year. There is still too much to be gained – especially for such a young team – by continuing to play hard and winning games.

"That's the best way to build culture the right way, to go through adversity, but come out on the other end, where you can learn from the wins instead of the losses," said Alualu, who spent the first seven years of his career with the Jacksonville Jaguars before playing the last six seasons with the Steelers.

"I've been around this league for so long, there's a lot of guys that kind of get complacent with, 'Ah, I guess this is just how it is.' The losses, they don't matter. They're not fighting to learn from every opportunity. Since I've been here, they do a good job with fighting and having the attitude that we always are in it, whether the record speaks for itself or not."

That's why you never hear the Steelers talking about rebuilding, even in a season such as this, when they were moving on after 18 years of having Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback.

This has been more of a transition year than it has a true rebuilding.

And it's been that way for a long time. You're not always going to win the Super Bowl. Only one team gets to do that each year. But you always try as hard as possible to compete for one.

• That tradition, such as the passing along of knowledge or helping younger players who are there to take your job, doesn't happen everywhere in the NFL.

Time and again there have been instances where the Steelers have selected a player in the draft to potentially replace a veteran who might be nearing the end of his career or his contract.

Typically, the veteran player takes the younger player under his wing and helps him.

It might sound like a small thing, but how many people in the "real world" would do the same with their job?

It's just what's expected in Pittsburgh.

"Even for me, coming from Jacksonville and the culture we had down there, it was so eye-opening to be part of the tradition and how things are done here," Alualu said. "The locker room talk, just being around the guys in this atmosphere was a change for me. They do a good job of trying to pass that down and showing guys how things are done here and the expectations of just what it's been like in the past. You keep trying to pass down that tradition of that standard that was set by some of the greatest that ever played this game."

• Dale Lolley is co-host of "SNR Drive" on Steelers Nation Radio. Subscribe to the podcast here: Apple Podcast | iHeart Podcast

That helps. And giving up on a season doesn't contribute to that culture.

• Think of it this way, did Kenny Pickett, George Pickens, Pat Freiermuth and Najee Harris learn more about themselves making big plays on a game-winning drive in the closing moments of last week's 13-10 victory over the Raiders, or did they learn more when the team failed in a similar situation in Miami earlier this season?

"It was a big moment," Pickett said. "I think you saw a lot of guys stand up. I think that's where the positive is in the growth of going down there and finishing the game where early in the season, the Miami game didn't go that way. But I think we all used that experience to help us out here in the end."

• The Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars are taking entirely different tacks heading into Week 17.

The winner of their meeting in Week 18 will be the AFC South champion. The loser will be out of the postseason.

Titans head coach Mike Vrabel decided to rest a number of starters for Tennessee's Week 17 game against the Cowboys Thursday night.

Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson isn't sitting anyone against the Texans on Sunday.

Both coaches have been around the block and are respected in the profession. It will be interesting to see if the outcome favors the decision of Vrabel or that of Pederson.

This isn't like resting starters for a playoff game in a meaningless regular season finale.

• Former Steelers quarterback Josh Dobbs made his first career start at the position for the Titans Thursday night in place of rookie Malik Willis.

Dobbs is the third quarterback to start for the Titans this season. And when Jarrett Stidham starts for a benched Derek Carr for the Raiders on Sunday, he'll be the 61st different quarterback to start a game this season in the NFL.

Entering this weekend, there are no teams averaging 30 points per game. There are just seven teams averaging more than 25 points per game.

Considering how many different quarterbacks have started games this season, nobody should be surprised.