JuJu: 'We have to start fast'

Starting fast: A month ago the Steelers lost to the Ravens, 26-14, in a game that dropped them to an uncomfortable 1-2-1 on the season.

Since then, though, things have changed. The Steelers have won their last three games, improving to 4-2-1 on the season and first place in the AFC North.

"You see the chemistry," said JuJu Smith-Schuster. "Having James Washington as our running back and building that chemistry with the offensive line and the offense. Working with Ben (Roethlisberger), having a young guy like James Washington in there, just building the chemistry."

But they can't get comfortable just because there is a better chemistry, and they know it, especially going against the Ravens this week.

"It's Pittsburgh-Ravens matchup," said Ramon Foster. "They have some hard guys up front, we do too. We just have to be on top of our job as far as consistently doing it. If we get away from the run early it could be a long day for us, unless Ben is just airing it out and pushing everyone's fantasy points."

The Steelers had to abandon the run in the earlier meeting after falling behind early, and this week they know a balanced offense is definitely the key.

"The pass heavy situation was because we were behind," said Foster. "Even when we tied it, you have to chase it. This time we can't get behind, can't have three-and-out situations. That falls on us, the offense. We had some terrible plays, we can't have that. The whole ordeal is no three and outs."

Against a team like the Ravens, who have a swarming defense, there is little margin for error so getting off to a strong start is vital.

"We have to start fast," said Smith-Schuster. "That is something we talk about all of the time. This game we have to have the run game consistent, more balance, an offense that is 50-50 and play our Steelers ball."

This is an important game. They came here and beat us. They came in our stadium and beat us. We have to make sure we are ready to beat them. Stephon Tuitt
You see his work. This is what he does. He has been doing it since he got here. I trust in him in everything we do. Moving forward I am not surprised if he keeps balling. JuJu Smith-Schuster on James Conner

On the run: There has been a lot of talk about James Conner this week and rightfully so.

Against the Browns he worked his way into the Steelers record books becoming the first player in team history to rush for 100 plus yards and score two touchdowns in three straight games.

His efforts didn't go unnoticed, first being named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week, and following that up the next day winning AFC Offensive Player of the Month honors.

And his teammates love it, and they love him.

"James in general is very motivated," said Foster. "He is a guy that fully understands his opportunity. He is on top of it.

"It's is a breath of fresh air to see a guy doing so well and excited. He came to us before our walkthrough hugging us saying thank you. When you have somebody like that, you are excited for him. His story is just the icing, no his story is the cake. That is huge."

Matt Feiler was part of the offensive line that blocked for Conner against the Browns with Marcus Gilbert missing the game, and he enjoyed every minute of it.

"It's awesome," said Feiler. "He hits the holes. He knows where to find the holes. He is a downhill runner. He punishes defenders trying to tackle him. I think everyone feeds off his energy. It's a good energy to feed off of. He is an exciting player to watch."

Earlier this season Conner's performance took some by surprise, especially after he saw limited playing time last year and his season ended early because of an injury.

Now, they expect what they are seeing.

"It doesn't surprise me anymore, which is pretty cool," said David DeCastro. "He has been doing what he has the whole time, keeping his head down and running hard. He is a fun guy to block for.

"I think it's one of the things where it's the standard. I don't think anyone is surprised by it. Let's keep doing it. That is what we pride ourselves on. Taking it week to week and repeating it."

I don’t think you need a chip on your shoulder when you are playing Baltimore. This is a division game. I know they lost, so they are going to be even hungrier at home. We know what we have ahead of us. Hopefully everyone in here is aware of what we have coming for us on Sunday. David DeCastro