Singularly focused: The Steelers go into Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals in a must-win situation, but it's going to take more than that for them to earn a postseason berth and AFC North title. The Steelers have to defeat the Bengals at Heinz Field, while the Cleveland Browns have to defeat the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium for the Steelers to win the AFC North.
Coach Mike Tomlin said they can't focus on what is happening around them, just stay singularly focused on the task at hand – which is beating the Bengals – and that is what he is telling his players.
"We just focus on the things that are within our control," said Tomlin. "From that perspective it's no different than any other week. We better handle business in our stadium. The things going on in other stadiums that could affect us, but there are things going on every week in other stadiums every weekend that could affect our positioning. We better focus on the task at hand, the things that are within our control, and that is our preparation and play as we push into Heinz Field on Sunday. That will be the message."
Don't look back: Last week's loss to the Saints was the third loss by three points for the Steelers down the home stretch of the season. And it's something hasn't been the norm for the Steelers as of late, who won many of those close games a year ago. Tomlin said there isn't any secret as to why they lost those close games, that it's just plain and simple and something they need to fix this week against the Bengals.
"It's quite simply black and white, making the sufficient number of plays to do the job or not," said Tomlin. "We are not going to make it something mystical. We're not going to pretend like it's something outside of our control. It is in our control. It's preparation, it's detail, play, planning, schematics, coaching. It's all of those things and all of those things are tangible. We are falling short for a variety and a myriad of reasons. But it's all in that discussion.
"We proceed with that understanding in mind and it is within our control and this week we have an opportunity to do something about the outcome of this game. We can't waste one iota of our time worrying about what's already transpired in 2018, that is no different than what transpired in 2017, that is history. We are focused on the days that lie ahead and how we can positively affect them for us."
Taking responsibility: Sunday's loss didn't come down to one play, but receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who fumbled late in the fourth quarter as the Steelers were driving to either tie or win the game, put the blame on his own shoulders.
Smith-Schuster tweeted the message below to Steelers fans.
Tomlin said Smith-Schuster can learn from his fumble the same way he can learn from all the success he has had in his young career.
"We are all products of experience," said Tomlin. "In JuJu's case he is a young guy that is a significant component of our attack, a guy that we depend on to deliver winning quality performance. I appreciate the fact that he is an accountable guy, that he accepts responsibility. I am sure moving forward he is going to have plenty of opportunities in his career to be the significant reason why we are successful. He has been that. It wasn't on Sunday.
"There is something to be learned individually and collectively from those things. Not wishing it away, not pretending like it didn't happen is a good component of using it for good as he and we move forward."