Division champs want more

CLEVELAND – Brett Keisel already has two Super Bowl rings, but that didn't stop the Steelers' defensive end from modeling his just-earned "AFC North Division Champions" T-shirt and baseball cap late Sunday afternoon at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

"We want to get two more shirts and two more hats," Keisel announced. "That would be the icing on the cake."

How they get there from a regular season concluding, 41-9 victory over the Browns was a much-discussed subject in the Steelers' locker room after they had put the finishing touches on the division championship and secured a much-sought-after bye in the opening round of the playoffs.

"Our confidence, our 'swag,'" linebacker Larry Foote responded, when asked what he liked most about the Steelers heading into the postseason. "When we step into arenas, it's just like we know we're going to win. And whoever's going to do it, we don't care. We're an unselfish bunch of guys in whatever area it is, offense, defense, whatever; as long as we get the 'W.'"

Foote, unlike Keisel, wasn't celebrating with any newly-acquired "AFC North Champions" attire.

"There are bigger fish to fry," he said.

Keisel highlighted a different quality in these 12-4, division-champion Steelers, in addition to sporting a different look than Foote.

"We just gotta continue to stay humble," Keisel said.

Humility and swagger; as different, perhaps, as offense and defense. And perhaps, just as integral in a championship equation.

These Steelers have demonstrated both characteristics in achieving that 12-4 record. And in the eyes of what Foote referred to as the Steelers' contingent of "been-there, done-that guys," they have the makings of a team that's capable of adding to its championship legacy.

That's been evident, wide receiver Hines Ward maintained, because of how the Steelers responded this season to what they had endured last season.

"I think so," he said. "Our leaders on this team came together, put it on their shoulders, 'let's go out and take care of business,' and we did that.

"We have a great team. And winning a Super Bowl and then to follow up with missing the playoffs is just disappointing. I think going through that five-game losing streak last season, a lot of guys learned from that. This year we came back and, at the beginning of the season, if anybody said we were going to finish 12-4 … only guys in this locker room, we didn't know what record we'd have but we knew we were going to have a great opportunity to make the postseason."

Now that they've made it they'll have a chance to take advantage of the opportunity the Steelers' return to the playoffs has created.

"We'll find out if we're ready," strong safety Troy Polamalu said. "That's the only way to answer that question.

"You can say that you have momentum, but it's just a whole different ballgame once you get into the playoffs. Little things start to matter more. The intensity, obviously, is picked up. I guess we've been fortunate enough to play a lot of playoff games around here, and you come to understand those types of things."

And with it comes the understanding that championship T-shirts and hats aren't just given away.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.