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'Time to recalibrate'

It's the type of late-season showdown that offers a glimpse ahead as to what might be in store in the postseason.

The 11-3 Steelers hosting the 10-4 Indianapolis Colts on Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field also provides a look in the mirror.

Two top-10 defenses (the Steelers are No. 2 and the Colts are No. 7) will be on display.

So will two of the NFL's most accomplished teams at forcing turnovers (only the Dolphins' 26 takeaways surpass the Steelers' 25 and the Colts' 24) and winning the turnover battle (the Colts are first in takeaway/giveaway at plus-12 and the Steelers tied for fourth at plus-8).

So will two offensive lines that rarely allow their quarterback to be sacked (the Steelers have allowed an NFL-low 12 and the Colts 16, the second-fewest in the league).

And so will two quarterbacks from the NFL's draft class of 2004 that rank among the NFL's all-time Top 10 in completions, passing yards and touchdown passes and are still leading the way as they close in on the age of 40 (the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger is 38 and the Colts' Philip Rivers is 39).

There's also plenty at stake.

The Steelers would clinch the AFC North Division championship with a victory.

The Colts can clinch a trip to the postseason with a win or a tie against the Steelers and the right corresponding result from the Ravens or Dolphins.

There are similarities aplenty.

It's the type of matchup Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin often describes as "Five Star" even if this one isn't in prime time.

The difference is the direction in which each team is headed.

The Colts lost their regular-season opener at Jacksonville (the Jaguars haven't won since) but have won three in a row and seven of their last nine.

The Steelers started 11-0 for the first time in franchise history and were the NFL's last remaining undefeated team at that juncture, but have dropped consecutive games to the Washington Football Team, the Bills and the Bengals.

The loss to a 2-10-1 Cincinnati last Monday night raised eyebrows and potentially sounded alarms.

Steelers defensive tackle Cam Heyward intends to respond with resolve.

"It's not time to jump off the ship," Heyward insisted. "It's time to recalibrate and get back on.

"It's a three-game losing streak but that's coming off an 11-game winning streak. I'm looking forward to getting back on this horse."

A recurring theme on defense during the losing streak has been an inability to come up with a key stop at a critical juncture as the unit has continually tried to work around not having players who were unavailable. Fourth-quarter scores surrendered that either broke a tie or extended an opponent's advantage from one to two scores have been a component of all three losses.

"We've been short a couple times," Heyward acknowledged. "The great thing about this defense is everybody's bought in from the beginning. No one's confidence has ever wavered in that."

The offense, working around moving parts of late up front, has failed to score 20 points in each of the last four games after averaging 29.9 a game through the first 10 games.

Roethlisberger said he called an offensive players-only meeting this week, not in response to the three consecutive losses but to make sure everyone was on the same page heading into the playoffs.

Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster maintained he got the message.

"Stick together," he said. "At times like this we just have to become closer as family.

"We gotta hold each other accountable. These next two games really have to show what we can do on offense."

Added center Maurkice Pouncey: "We'll get things together, trust me."