There was definitely a little more spring in their step on Monday, a little more energy, and definitely more smiles than the previous few weeks and rightfully so. Because after dealing with losing for the first four weeks of the season Steelers players finally got a taste of victory when they defeated the New York Jets 19-6 on Sunday.
"Hopefully this is a springboard of things to come," said Coach Mike Tomlin following the game. "That is going to be our intention as we look at this like we looked at the other four before it with the sole purpose of getting better for our next opportunity. It's a good feeling, not like you won the lottery, but it's still a good feeling nonetheless."
And for the 2013 Steelers, it's the first time they have had this feeling. After opening the season 0-4 for the first time since 1968, they took a small step in the right direction on Sunday.
"It could be a springboard. We are going to approach it as something we can build on," said defensive end Cam Heyward after watching film on Monday. "For our rookies it was kind of bad because they hadn't won yet. The thing about it…it just felt right to win. This team isn't used to being in this situation and God forbid it happens again. It just shows that we put in a lot of hard work the past two weeks, using the bye to reevaluate things and we were able to get the win."
Heyward, who took over the starting left defensive end spot from Ziggy Hood, said that looking back at the first four games of the season it was evident that it came down to "four or five plays" that hurt the team and led to the losses.
"We could have all of the wins and losses every play and we were winning that, but the four or five plays that stuck out that were big plays killed us and this game I thought we really changed that by eliminating those," said Heyward. "There were some tight holes, tight spaces and everyone was running to the ball. Yards after catch were non-existent."
Another area where the defense was spot on was on stopping the Jets third down conversions, allowing them to convert just three of 11 attempts.
"The coaches did a great job with the game plan," said Heyward. "We were able to exploit some things. I thought we came with a lot of pressure. The main thing for the defense was we won on first and second down to put them in some tough third downs. Once we got them in some tougher situations we were able to pin our ears back and have a chance to hit them.
"I think everybody played better. We executed a lot better. I don't think we schematically changed. We did a good job of attacking their run, not just stopping it. We got guys back, everybody flying to the ball."
Heyward put pressure on Jet's rookie quarterback Geno Smith, but graded his own performance as a two out of 10.
"There are a lot of things I can improve on," said Heyward. "I am not satisfied. I like to get pressure, but I would rather get a sack, strip fumble, whatever we've got to do. I am not satisfied right now."
And he isn't the only one feeling that way. Despite the smiles, despite getting the win, they know there is a lot more work to do.
"It's a good building block but I don't think anybody's satisfied with it," said Heyward. "I think it just makes you salivate and hungry for the next one."