A little bit of this, and a little bit of that as the Steelers prepare to take on the Cincinnati Bengals.Heating up:
William Gay has played in his share of Steelers-Bengals games, and has definitely seen the rivalry intensify over the years. But as a veteran, he knows what is at stake this Sunday when the two teams meet at Paul Brown Stadium, and that emotions have to be kept in check.
"That game with us and them, it has become heated," said Gay. "We played them five times in 12 months. At the end of the day it's AFC North football. We are trying to get our ticket to the playoffs. It has to go through Cincinnati. December football, AFC North football, it gets no better than this.
"This week, it's a new challenge against Cincinnati. We just want to be prepared the best we can and go out and play Steelers football and come out with a win."
The Steelers lead the AFC North with three games remaining in the regular season. If they win out, they win the division. But the challenges are tough, and playing smart football is paramount, something the veterans are instilling in the younger players.
"They just need to follow the right people and see what they are doing," said Gay. "If you get caught in a situation, look to a veteran and do what he would do. You have to challenge them to follow the lead of the veterans and we will show you how to act or respond."
Extra eyes: When dishing out credit for the Steelers' defensive play against the Bills, you don't expect to hear some of it going to Cameron Heyward, a player who is on injured reserve.
But it's been Heyward's influence, his eyes on the game, and his motivational skills that have helped the defense rise to the occasion, and his teammates duly noted it.
Heyward has been travelling with the team, something he doesn't have to do since he is on IR. But it's something he wants to do, and being a presence on the sideline definitely matters.
"I asked Coach (Mike) Tomlin if I could come along," said Heyward. "I appreciate that they let me come. I want to be an extra set of eyes, help relate some things, and see some stuff that they might not see. It's my team and I want them to do well. My role changed and I do what I can."
He has taken on the pseudo role of a coach, not a role he relishes, but one he knows is his way to help right now.
"It's tough, I'm envious because I want to be out there," said Heyward. "You pay attention to the game and see how the flow is going, see what we are doing well and not doing well. I can be honest with guys, it's different than a straight coach."
Heyward said being on the sidelines is better than watching at home on television for a multitude of reasons.
"My wife would be sick of me being at home," joked Heyward. "I think it helps being there. It makes me even more eager to get back on the field. I try to stay in the now as much as possible. I am going to do what I can."
Finalist: Former Steelers linebacker Levon Kirkland is a finalist for the South Carolina Football Hall of Fame (SCFHOF) Class of 2017. Kirkland played for the Steelers from 1992-2000, and was a two-time Pro Bowl selection and All-Pro selection. He was NFL Alumni Linebacker of the Year in 1997 and named to the NFL 1990s All-Decade Team.
They said it:
Ramon Foster: "It's Cincinnati. It's AFC North. Our last three games are AFC North. It's a big game for us. Hate that they flexed it, but it's still going to be a good environment there."