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Focus on the playoffs began in offseason

Steelers-Ravens * Saturday, January 3 * Heinz Field
AFC Wild Card Round
Gates open at 6:15 pm * Kickoff at 8:15 pm

Focused from the start: They talked about it while lifting weights in the early offseason months ago, and the conversation just continued to build as the calendar turned and it got closer and closer to the start of the 2014 season.

This was the year the players knew they had to get back to the old ways, which meant back to the playoffs. After missing out for two straight years, they weren't going to be denied again.

"It feels great. This is a winning franchise," said linebacker Sean Spence. "We missed the playoffs the last two years. This offseason that's all we talked about, making the playoffs, winning the division and chasing the Lombardi Trophy. We have the opportunity to do it and it starts this week with Baltimore."

Spence said that while in the past players were always motivated and fought to make it to the postseason, he saw even more determination this offseason.

"No doubt about it," said Spence. "Guys came in ready to work. You could feel the intensity in camp, OTAs and it carried over into the season. We had our ups and downs in the season, but it hardened us for the journey. We learned some hard lessons, losing last minute games, losing to teams we shouldn't lose to, blowing leads. I think it definitely paid off."

Hard-nosed football: Six teams have made the AFC playoffs, and three of them are from the AFC North.

"It's winning football in this division, everywhere you look," said linebacker Jason Worilds. "It puts even more emphasis on how important those games are, to win those games in the division. You need every one of them and everyone is going to bring their 'A' game."

The Steelers will host the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday night, while the Cincinnati Bengals are at Indianapolis. The only team not to make the postseason in the division is the Cleveland Browns, who were in the playoff hunt until late in the year.

"It's hard-nosed, grimy football," said linebacker Ryan Shazier. "We are all going to do what we have to do to win. We are just going to keep fighting. We know what we have to do to win."

They said it:Tackle Marcus Gilbert on the Steelers approach:
"It's one game at a time. That is what we have been working on. Guys have been singularly focused on the task at hand and that's getting this win on Saturday night."

The Steelers prepare for their Wild Card playoff against the Baltimore Ravens.

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