Cam Heyward stood at his locker and preached it.
T.J. Watt stood at his locker and preached it.
Now it’s just a matter of going out on the field on Monday night against the Cincinnati Bengals and doing it.
Plain and simple the defense wants to start with one thing.
“Stop the run,” said Watt. “Number one, stop the run.”
Through three games the Steelers have allowed 418 yards rushing, an average of 139.3 yards per game. This is a defense that prides itself on first and foremost shutting down the run and making a team one dimensional. But it hasn’t happened so far. And Watt and Heyward know it must happen on Monday against a Bengals team that is averaging 42 yards rushing per game.
“You look at our last few games, you can tell me the pass was good, but you have to make teams one dimensional,” said Heyward. “If they have to pass every down because they can’t run the ball, you have an advantage. Right now, you are able to run and pass on us. They are able to stay on schedule. We haven’t gotten guys enough off schedule. It has to be more consistent from here on out.”
Monday night will be the first AFC North matchup for the Steelers, and right now all four AFC North teams are 0-0 in the division, with Cleveland at Baltimore on Sunday. The players know winning this division game against the Bengals, who have an identical 0-3 record, is huge, especially with another AFC North game against Baltimore just a week away.
“We just have to get this ‘W’,” said Heyward. “That’s all it comes down to. I don’t care how it gets done, it has to get done. Our execution has to be flawless from here on out. Our room for error is out the window. We have to be perfect in everything we do, especially in practice. It’s my job to keep us accountable. It’s my job to keep guys ready for the opportunity. Both teams are 0-3 but one team is going to be 1-3 after this game.
“These next two weeks are very important. The road is right in front of us. We don’t have to hope and pray for anybody to do it for us. We play each team twice in our division and we can gain ground that way. That is all we have to focus on.”
While it is early in the season, and there is plenty of football left to play, there still is a sense of urgency in the locker room to get things turned around, and to do it now.
“I don’t know if desperation is the right word for it,” said Watt in reply to a reporter’s question. “A sense of urgency is a better way of saying it. We need to get a win and we know that. Nobody in here is happy with the situation we are in right now. We understand we got ourselves here and it’s on us to get ourselves out of here. Take a hard look in the mirror, make some adjustments. From a defensive standpoint we have to stop the run and make teams one dimensional. We’re not doing that right now.
“It’s a big game no matter which way you cut it. You don’t want to fall another game short here. You look at it, everyone is 0-0 in the division right now. We are just trying to get out here, get a win, get things rolling and see where things go from there.”
While you might see some frustration from the players as a result of the 0-3 start, and who wouldn’t be, what you won’t see is any finger pointing.
“It’s easy not to point the finger,” said Heyward. “You look at our tape, there are mistakes everywhere. For any guy pointing the finger, I’ll break their finger if they do.”