Pouncey: 'You have to know it's time'

As players gathered around Coach Mike Tomlin in the locker room following the team's 42-21 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, they heard the words all players love to hear this time of year, that Monday would be an off day.

Those words only come after a win, and for players this late in the season, a day of rest isn't a bad thing.

The Pittsburgh Steelers traveled to Paul Brown Stadium for a division matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 14.

But as soon as Tomlin shared that message, veteran players spoke up and let their teammates know that maybe it shouldn't be the case.

"We were breaking it down after the game and Coach Tomlin said Monday off," said safety Shamarko Thomas. "Some of the players like Will Gay, Maurkice Pouncey and others said, no, we have to come in. They know what is at stake right now. There is definitely a sense of urgency. We are just ready to get back to business. We need to stay focused and win."

Thomas was among a group that was already in the weight room bright and early Monday morning. As was Pouncey, and the rest of the offensive line.

"You have to know it's time," said Pouncey. "Our focus has to be on what we need to do this week. A lot of us are in here today getting in a good workout, watching film. It's about focusing in on what's important."

The weight room, the locker room, all of them were buzzing as if it were a regular day as the players understand the urgency of December football.

"We need to keep pushing," said offensive lineman Cody Wallace. "This last stretch we have to take advantage of every day and not let anything slip by us. We have a good turnout and everything, all of the guys get together and push each other."

The Steelers are currently the fifth seed in the AFC, and if they win their next three games would win the AFC North. It's kicked the intensity to another level, from the weight room, to practice, to the playing field.

"In practice the last couple of weeks we have been getting after it pretty good," said Wallace. "It's been kind of scrappy out there. I think the guys realize the urgency each one of these games brings with it with the way the division is playing out and everybody doing well. We can't afford to let one slip by."

Thomas agrees, and credits the veterans for making sure that attitude resonates with the younger players.

"I definitely see it a lot," said Thomas. "You see it in the veterans, how serious they take everything. The intensity is rising.

"We are ready to play, ready to win, ready to bring the old Steelers style back."

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