Close your eyes for a minute and just picture the scene. It's Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field. The stadium is a sea of Terrible Towels and fans are dressed in black and gold, proudly wearing their favorite player's jersey. The PA announcer is introducing the 2014 Steelers and you can't help it but feel your blood pumping.
And you know why…because It's Back to Football.
The Scouting Combine, the NFL Draft, OTAs, minicamp, training camp and the preseason. They were just teasers. On Sunday, football begins for real in Pittsburgh when the Steelers host the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field.
If you think you are excited for it, take that and multiply it by 100 and that's what Steelers' players are feeling as game day nears.
"It's a different tempo," said linebacker Jarvis Jones. "The roster is finalized. The game plan is starting. The season is on the line. Every game counts. We have to be in tune, understand what is going on and be ready.
"Then, it's Cleveland. It's our rival from up the road. We have to be ready. It's week one, it's the National Football League. I am very excited. It's been a long time coming. We have been working tremendously hard around here. We are ready."
It's seems like forever for the players since they have played in a game that has counted in the standings, one that has such meaning. And in football sense, it has been forever, a little more than eight months, and on that December day it was a similar setting, the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field.
"The focus, the sense of urgency, and everything becomes more real," said receiver Lance Moore. "The real bullets are flying at that point. Your level of preparation kicks up a notch knowing this is the real deal.
"If you can get out to a quick start a lot of times the season can end up a lot better. If you are playing behind the eight ball, starting out slow and playing catch-up all year, it's a lot harder to reach your goals if you are playing from behind."
While Moore is new to the Steelers' roster this year, those who were part of things in 2013 definitely understand what a fast start can mean. The Steelers opened the year 0-4, but in winning their final three games of last season were so close to the playoffs, but yet so far.
"There is a little more focus, a little more attention to detail with it now being the regular season," said guard David DeCastro. "You want to make sure everything is right, clean, 100 percent before you start.
"We know all too well about getting off to a bad start how much it can affect you when you are looking back, so we definitely want to get off to a good one."
And with opening weekend featuring the Steelers-Browns and Ravens-Bengals, there is no doubt Sunday takes on even greater meaning, as a fast start gives the winners an early edge in the AFC North.
"It's a big time division rivalry, a big time division game we must win," said safety Mike Mitchell. "Division games usually count for two, because if you win it the worst case scenario the other team can do is tie you. You don't want to be in the opposite situation, so the sense of urgency is here to come out and do our best and win the game."