With just fives games left to play in the season, and the AFC North and the AFC overall so tightly contested, every game for the Steelers now is almost like a playoff game.
"We keep saying when I talk to you all every week, it's a must win," said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. "When you get to the playoffs, it's a must win. Because of the hole or whatever you want to say that we've kind of dug ourselves into, even though we're not really in the hole because of the way the AFC is, we're still behind some teams and have to do some work."
The Steelers are currently third in the AFC North at 6-5-1, but there isn't much that separates them from the Baltimore Ravens, who lead the North at 8-4, the Cincinnati Bengals who are second at 7-5, or the Cleveland Browns who are in last place at 6-6.
"We can't let up," said Roethlisberger. "Every game is a must win. Every game is a playoff type caliber game. That's the approach we have to take moving forward the rest of the way."
The Steelers don't have much time to prepare this week, playing on Thursday night against the Minnesota Vikings on the road. The key will be familiarity, not trying to put a lot of new stuff in but trusting what has worked for them.
"We'll have to rely more on stuff we know," said Roethlisberger. "If you look at what we've installed, it's not like we don't have a bunch of new stuff. Stuff added last week, two weeks ago, things that we've done so guys can try and play faster."
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The Steelers and Vikings have both found themselves in some tightly contested games this season, and while it hasn't been ideal, Roethlisberger said it could be a lesson for guys as the seasons tightens even more.
"Obviously we'd love to have the blowout game and not have to worry about it, but I definitely think you can learn something from the game last week," said Roethlisberger of the fourth quarter comeback against the Baltimore Ravens. "We had to drive down the field, or Chicago a few weeks ago and we've got to go down to win the game. There's something to be said in character that can be built, heart that can be built, from those games.
"I definitely think there is something to be taken from tight games because a lot of times when you get to the postseason, or as you're starting to get down to the end of the regular season, which is almost considered postseason, games are usually tight. So, if you can look back on it and say 'Oh, remember this game or remember this moment, remember we needed to drive here or a play here.' If you've already experienced them, sometimes that can benefit you moving forward."
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Take a look at the best portraits from the Steelers' Week 13 game against the Baltimore Ravens
Roethlisberger orchestrated the 11th game-winning drive of his career against the Ravens in the fourth quarter/overtime this past week. It's the most game-winning drives by any quarterback vs. any opponent.
Roethlisberger completed nine of 10 passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, along with converting on a two-point conversion while amassing a 158.3 passer rating.
After the game, Coach Mike Tomlin gave Roethlisberger the game ball for his performance.
"I've been in a lot of circumstances like that with him and he usually does what he did last night," said Tomlin. "And not only that, but he relishes those opportunities. You want to educate young players too. I'm sure Ben's got a lot of game balls at the house, but it was also a point to be made to the young player: what's desired and expected. Our young players get an opportunity to learn a lot from guys like Ben and Cam (Heyward), not only in terms of how they conduct themselves and the things that they say, but how they perform and how they perform in those thick moments. You get to be Ben, you get to be Cam, for a reason. Because of your ability and your willingness to consistently rise up in those moments and deliver."
Roethlisberger said it meant something to him, just because of the scope of the game, who it was against, etc.
"Maybe because it's the Ravens, and it's at home and that's a special win," said Roethlisberger. "Playing a team like that, any AFC North team, but especially those guys and it's just something special about winning and winning at home and doing it that way.
"You think about the many fourth quarter or last play of the game type things that have happened against those guys and it's special."