Week 18 Blog: A recap of the news

Friday, December 6

Keeping the mood right: The mood in the Steelers locker room on Friday afternoon was upbeat, with players joking and laughing as practice wrapped up.

And there is good reason for it.

The Steelers are still alive in the playoff hunt and having an upbeat attitude is exactly what they need.

"We're still alive. We still have a pulse," said linebacker T.J. Watt. "We're trying to win this game and see where the chips fall. You can't go into a game tight. We want to be loose. We had a really good week of practice. We are young, but we've been very, very focused. And each week we've gotten more focused. I don't want guys being super tight going in to this game."

This is a team that had reasons to get tight as the season rolled along, especially when they hit a mark where they were 2-6. But instead of getting tight, they stuck it out and stuck together, playing their best football as the season wore on.

"I always feel confident in the guys in this locker room," said Watt. "It's one of those things where there was a lot of football left to be played at the time. We knew we needed to turn it around and you can go one of two ways, but we weren't going to lay down by any means."

The teams stepped up on both sides of the ball, everyone going full tilt to get to where they are today.

"I think it's defensively stopping the run, making tackles, creating splash," said Watt. "Offensively we've been able to possess the ball and keep the defense off the field. When we get on the field, we're able to get stops and I think that's just been a key to it all. But more than anything, we're just a young team. We had a rough start to the season, but we've been able to grow each and every week and that's something that we've continued to be able to do and hopefully continue to do."

January football: Playing meaningful football in January is something every NFL team strives for, and thanks to an unwavering belief, the Steelers are doing just that.

After a 2-6 start, the Steelers are 8-8 and playing for a playoff spot this week, needing a win or a tie as well as some help along the way.

"It shows how resilient we are," said receiver Miles Boykin. "We have a group of guys that never gave up on anything no matter what the situation looked like. We went out there each and every week and played our best ball, tried to win games and close out games. It wasn't happening early in the season, but it's happened a lot more often late in the season."

The turnaround came after the team's bye week, and it was all about staying together as one.

"Guys truly did just stay together," said safety Terrell Edmunds. "Everyone stayed together and kept on fighting. We didn't bat our eyes. Like Coach (Mike) Tomlin says, cut our eyelids off and keep on working."

It was that message, and every word from Tomlin this season, that helped the players stay together, that kept them focused on what they need to get done and pushed them to where they are today.

"Coach is the same guy every day," said Boykin. "He always says situations shouldn't change the person you are and how you act every day, how you come to work every day. That rolled off on us. There was frustration, but we tried to keep doing the same things, getting better at what we were doing. Over the course of time that is what we did. He hasn't changed one bit. Since Day 1 he has been the same coach and it's great to see. You can have a situation where everybody is stressed out and people act different. That hasn't been the case from the top down this year."

A dynamic duo: Earlier this week Coach Mike Tomlin called Browns running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt a 'top tandem in football.'

Linebacker Robert Spillane couldn't agree more.

"They are a two-headed monster," said Spillane. "As tough as any backfield in the NFL. I have a personal relationship with those guys. I went up against Kareem Hunt during his college career at Toledo. He was an elite college running back. He is an elite NFL running back. He has gotten better every year. Nick Chubb being one of the best backs in the league. His production speaks for itself.

"It will be a challenge. I am looking forward to it."

In their first meeting this season, a Week 3 loss to Cleveland, the Browns rushed for 171 yards, with Chubb rushing for 113 yards on 23 carries and Hunt adding 47 yards on 12 carries.

Stopping the two is going to be a must this week and it's not an easy task, but one the defense is prepared to take on.

"Each game is totally different in the complexation and makeup," said Spillane. "This week being the last week of the regular season, we have an idea of what they want to do offensively and it's not the same as other teams. We've got a game plan we are working on this week, and I think we have done a great job of understanding that game plan so far."

Tune in: For fans who don't want to miss any of the action, NFL+ is here, which means you can now watch the Steelers live and on the go! Watch live local and primetime regular season games on your phone or tablet. Start your free trial today here.

Thursday, December 5

Turning things around: It's a saying you hear countless times in sports, but for the Steelers, this year it couldn't ring truer.

It's not how you start, it's how you finish.

The Steelers started the 2022 season with a disappointing 2-6 record, but following the bye week have turned it around, going 6-2 and heading into Week 18 still in the playoff hunt.

There is a lot of credit to go around, and it starts at the top with Coach Mike Tomlin.

"When we were 2-6, there was no panic," said linebacker Myles Jack. "I've been in other places, and it was like the house is on fire, everybody is about to lose their job, mortgages are at stake. Here it was like, let's just continue to get better and see what's going on. I really just give it up to Coach T, how he's conducted things. He's been the same whether we win or lose.

"I was like are they going to start ringing the fire alarms around here. But it's been smoother. We just work even harder and put our head down. When we won, we didn't say much. When we lost, we worked even harder. He's got the right formula and that is really the reason why we came back."

That formula is something the players embraced up and down the roster.

"He brings that passion and energy every day," said linebacker Alex Highsmith. "We are fortunate to have a coach like him. He is one of the best coaches I have ever had. You want to play for a guy like that. He comes in the locker room, interacts with us, pushes us to be the best. It's awesome to see how much he loves football. It permeates throughout the team. He continues to bring the energy every day. We are lucky to have him."

It is Tomlin's consistency, his resolve, his approach that never wavered that helped his players have that same approach even when things weren't going as they hoped.

"You can feel his energy, his vibe every day he comes in," said defensive back Tre Norwood. "He wants the best for everybody in here, and it rubs off, even in the rough patch that we had, he stayed steady. Having a leader like that is something you need, something you want to follow behind. I think everybody in this building, not just the locker room, but the building can vouch for that.

"His resume around the league, this game, speaks for itself. To play for him, he is one of the greatest leaders that will go down in the history of this sport, when it comes to being a man as well.

"He is battle tested. He has been in it for a long time. His resume speaks for itself. It makes it easy to follow him. He knows what he is doing, knows what he is talking about. Everybody buys in and trusts the plan, the process."

And that is a fact. The players buy in because they trust their coach, have confidence that he will lead them down the right path.

"He is very consistent and a great leader," said safety Elijah Riley, a West Point alum who understands what leadership is truly about. "Whether we are on a win streak or earlier in the season when we lost some games, he was the same. That consistency allowed us to rally around him. He gave us that steady mast to follow so we could learn from the mistakes we were making and ride it out, taking it week by week because we understand what it takes. He is for the guys, inspirational and probably the best coach I have been around."

And that is why when asked if they like playing for Tomlin, every player breaks out into a genuine smile, a smile that tells you all you need to know.

"It's only my second year, but I wouldn't want to play for any other coach," said Norwood. "I am not just saying that because I am here. It's his leadership, competitiveness, his will to win, to want us to get better. You have to love that."

Riley is with his third NFL team, and for someone who admired Tomlin's coaching growing up, Pittsburgh is the perfect place for him.

"I was excited to come here and play for Coach T," said Riley. "He is somebody who has been around since I was a kid. He was cool to watch growing up.

"Getting to play for him now is dope, especially with the things I have been learning. My football IQ has grown drastically. He is so consistent. I can look to him and build my days based on what he gives us in the early meetings. It's a lot of fun playing for him."

Eye on the prize: When the Steelers take the field on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns at Acrisure Stadium, there will be two other games Steelers Nation will have their eyes on as the black and gold fight for a playoff spot but need some help along the way.

The Steelers and Browns will kick off at 1 p.m., along with the New England Patriots at the Buffalo Bills and the Miami Dolphins hosting the New York Jets.

To make the playoffs, the Steelers must beat the Browns and the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots have to both lose or tie. The Steelers could also tie the Browns, but then the Dolphins and Patriots would both have to lose.

While fans will definitely be keeping an eye on the score, it will be a mix on the sideline as to what players will be doing.

"I really haven't paid attention to everything else," said rookie defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal. "Just focusing on the last game of the regular season and looking forward to the matchup this week."

Safety Terrell Edmunds knows that watching what other teams are doing isn't going to help anything, as the most important aspect is to just go out and beat the Browns.

"We just have to handle our business first," said Edmunds. "If we don't go out there and complete our job, nothing else really matters. We are so laser focused on going out there and beating the Browns, and then hopefully everything else works out in our favor."

Wide receiver Miles Boykin knows the Browns game is first and foremost, he also knows it will be hard not to look at the scoreboard if the game scores show up.

"It's human nature. I think if they put the score up there, we are going to look," said Boykin. "At the same time our job is to win the game on Sunday. That is all we are worried about, what we can control.

"The other games have no bearing on how we are going to play. We are going to do our best to go out there and win the game."

Back to work: Cornerback William Jackson III returned to practice on Wednesday, his first time back since before he was placed on the Reserve/Injured List on Nov. 12.

"It definitely felt great," said Jackson. "It's been a long time coming. It felt wonderful just to put my cleats back in the grass. It's been a while. I am just out there trying to get my feet back up under me and have fun."

Jackson was acquired via a trade with the Washington Commanders prior to the bye weekend. Jackson has yet to play in a game for the Steelers but played in four games in 2022 for the Commanders prior to the trade, starting all of them.

He said it has been frustrating missing time, but knows it was out of his control.

"It's always frustrating because you want to play, but when it's out of your hands that is the most frustrating part about it," said Jackson. "I stay positive, though. Guys kept me positive. The most important thing was guys knew what was going on. As long as they did, it was smooth sailing."

A look back: On this day in 2007, after 15 seasons as the Coach of the Steelers, Bill Cowher stepped down following the 2006 season. Cowher led the Steelers to postseason appearances in each of his first six seasons, tying an NFL record. In his 15-year tenure the Steelers made 10 postseason appearances, won eight division titles, played in six AFC Championship games and two Super Bowls, winning Super Bowl XL. Cowher ended his Steelers career with an overall record of 161-99-1 (.619), including a 149-90-1 (.623) mark in the regular season.

During his retirement press conference among those he thanked were Steelers Nation.

"To the Steelers fans in Pittsburgh and the fans around the country – second to none," said Cowher. "I want to thank you for your passion and your support. I've said this before. I'm a part of you. You can take the people out of Pittsburgh, but you will never take the Pittsburgh out of people. I'm one of you. 'Yinz' know what I mean."

Tune in: For fans who don't want to miss any of the action, NFL+ is here, which means you can now watch the Steelers live and on the go! Watch live local and primetime regular season games on your phone or tablet. Start your free trial today here.

Wednesday, January 4

Staying focused: It's a week when players around the NFL are going to be asked a similar question as everyone wants to know how they are going to focus on their games this week with what happened to Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin in the back of their minds.

Hamlin, who suffered a cardiac arrest after a tackle in Monday night's game against the Cincinnati Bengals, is on the mind and in the thoughts and prayers of players league wide.

Defensive tackle Cameron Heyward is one of those players who is keeping Hamlin in his prayers but said they still have to go out and do their job.

"Everybody is always going to be thinking about that kid and what happened," said Heyward. "Nobody ever thinks that risk is ever going to take place. Right now, I can only continue to do my job and guys are going to do that. But definitely thinking about that kid."

Heyward said he wasn't watching Monday night's game, but after getting texts from friends, he and his wife, Allie, turned it on.

"That can happen to anybody," said Heyward. "It's happened in different sports before. Thankfully we have first responders and nurses and doctors that are right there for us. Not everybody is given that benefit. I would like to think we are more protected than a lot of other people.

"All we can do is keep thinking about that guy, keep him in our prayers and hope he makes a full recovery. Just thinking about him."

Heyward knows being focused this week is a key for him and his teammates, who have a lot on the line in their Week 18 matchup against the Cleveland Browns at Acrisure Stadium. If the Steelers beat the Browns and the Dolphins and Patriots both lose or tie, the Steelers will earn a playoff berth. The Steelers could also get in if they tie the Browns, and the Dolphins and Patriots both lose. The Dolphins and Patriots will both be playing their games at the same time as the Steelers and Heyward said you can't pay attention to what they are doing.

"Stay focused on the task at hand," said Heyward. "For us to make it to the playoffs, it doesn't matter if we don't win our game. I don't really need to look around. We need to be locked in on this game because the Cleveland Browns are going to come in here and try and beat us."

Staying focused has been a theme all season, even when the Steelers found themselves at 2-6 heading into their bye week. Heyward said the turnaround from then until now doesn't surprise him.

"We put in the work for a reason," said Heyward. "We come ready every week to get better. That is not without our faults. I embrace it all. This team does. We're not surprised by where we are. We just have to keep growing. I am not going to get too high or too low. December had to be our month to even get to this point and it was. Now we are in January with a chance to get to the playoffs.

Heyward was asked how the Steelers were able to overcome the tough start, while so many other teams can't dig themselves out of difficult starts. Heyward said it all starts with Coach Mike Tomlin.

"The short answer is, they're not us," said Heyward. "The long answer is Coach T prepares us, our coaches do a heck of a job getting us ready and then the players all buy in. It's the players staying locked in and understanding there is more football to be had."

A great guy: Defensive back Tre Norwood has been sharing his thoughts and prayers for Damar Hamlin on his Instagram account as they two became quick friends after playing in the Senior Bowl together in 2021.

"We got close at the Senior Bowl. We came out the same year," said Norwood. "With him being from here and me getting drafted here, our bond got closer. The main thing is focusing on his health right now. Praying for his health and safety, for him, his family and everybody who has been affected by it. His family, the Bills organization and everybody that is close to him.

"As a friend of mine, it sucks to see things like that. The main thing is to continue to send prayers up for his health, safety, and for his family."

Their friendship has grown over the last two years and Norwood said that Hamlin is a special person, someone everyone should continue to keep in their prayers.

"He is a great guy," said Norwood. "The City of Pittsburgh loves him. He gives back to the city a lot. Very humble dude. Very loving, caring guy. Very passionate. Just a guy you like to be around. Very genuine, has great positive energy. Just a great guy."

Steelers-Browns kickoff time: The Steelers will host the Cleveland Browns at Acrisure Stadium on Sunday, January 8 at 1 p.m. in the regular season finale.

The game will air on CBS, KDKA-TV in the Pittsburgh market.

The Steelers playoff hopes are alive after the 16-13 win over the Baltimore Ravens, but they still need some help along the way to make the postseason.

The Buffalo Bills and New York Jets both need either win or tie on Sunday. The Bills (12-3) host the New England Patriots (8-8), while the Jets (7-9) are at the Miami Dolphins (8-8). Both of those games will also be played at 1 p.m.

The Week 18 game will be the Steelers 'Thank You Fans' game, which will be filled with special activities and giveaways for those in attendance to celebrate the best fans in the NFL.

Get tickets now>> ORDER YOUR TICKETS HERE

Vote for Cam: Steelers defensive tackle Cameron Heyward is the Steelers nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year, presented by Nationwide. This is the fifth time Heyward has been the Steelers' nominee.

Every NFL team names a Man of the Year nominee, and they are all eligible to be the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year, presented by Nationwide.

Steelers fans can do their part to help Heyward win the award by voting for him on Twitter through tweets and re-tweets.

Simply tweet #WPMOYChallenge and @CamHeyward or #WPMOYChallenge and Heyward to vote for him. You can also re-tweet any tweet with that mentioned in it.

Tune in: For fans who don't want to miss any of the action, NFL+ is here, which means you can now watch the Steelers live and on the go! Watch live local and primetime regular season games on your phone or tablet. Start your free trial today here.

Take a closer look at scenes from the Steelers' Week 17 game against the Baltimore Ravens

Monday, January 2

Keeping the faith: After starting the season 2-6, the Steelers have found themselves with an 8-8 record and in the playoff hunt in Week 18.

The Steelers need to defeat the Cleveland Browns at Acrisure Stadium on Sunday, and also need some help from their 'friends.' The Steelers need the Buffalo Bills to either win or tie on Sunday against the New England Patriots, and the New York Jets to win or tie the Miami Dolphins, for the black and gold to make it to the dance in the AFC.

"It's awesome to have a fighting chance to go to the playoffs," said linebacker Alex Highsmith. "We know we got a big game this week against the Browns, fighting for our playoff lives. I am excited for that. Yesterday was a huge win. We have to continue fighting. This week is going to be a heck of a game. I am excited for it."

The post-bye week turnaround put the Steelers in position to have a shot at the playoffs, something Highsmith credits everyone believing in themselves.

"Just keeping the faith," said Highsmith. "Never get too down…2-6 was the rough point of the season. But after the bye we knew we had nine games left. We know the type of team we can be, so we just have to continue to fight. Every game we win gives us more and more confidence. We're looking forward to this one.

"We just have to control what we can control, and that's winning the game. We just have to worry about winning our game."

The Steelers lost the last meeting against the Browns, a Week 3 showdown in Cleveland, a game that featured two different starting quarterbacks for both teams. Mitch Trubisky started for the Steelers, while Jacoby Brissett started for the Browns. This week it will be Kenny Pickett and Deshaun Watson leading their teams.

"They are both similar in mobility," said Highsmith of Watson and Brissett. "We have another challenge this week. Playing Tyler Huntley yesterday, he is one of those guys who is able to get out of the pocket. We have to be disciplined with our rush lanes and be able to keep him in the pocket. When we do that, we'll be able to get him."

While making sure Watson doesn't hurt them, the job at hand for the defense first is to stop the run first.

Nick Chubb put up 113 yards rushing in the 29-17 win, while the Browns tallied 171 yards rushing overall.

"The big thing for us was we didn't stop the run that game," said Highsmith. "The thing the last few weeks has been stopping the run. We have to get back to doing that. We know what type of back Nick Chubb is, so we have to stop him."

Staying alive: The Steelers playoff hopes are alive after a 16-13 win over the Baltimore Ravens, but they still need some help along the way to make the postseason.

First and foremost, the Steelers must defeat the Cleveland Browns this week at Acrisure Stadium.

It doesn't stop there, though.

The Steelers need both the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets to win, or tie in either case, in order for the black and gold to secure an AFC playoff spot.

The Bills (12-3) host the New England Patriots (8-8), while the Jets (7-9) are at the Miami Dolphins (8-8).

Take a look at the best photos from the Week 17 game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium

Vote for Cam: Steelers defensive tackle Cameron Heyward is the Steelers nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year, presented by Nationwide. This is the fifth time Heyward has been the Steelers' nominee.

Every NFL team names a Man of the Year nominee, and they are all eligible to be the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year, presented by Nationwide.

Steelers fans can do their part to help Heyward win the award by voting for him on Twitter through tweets and re-tweets.

Simply tweet #WPMOYChallenge and @CamHeyward or #WPMOYChallenge and Heyward to vote for him. You can also re-tweet any tweet with that mentioned in it.

Take a look at images of Steelers' 2022 WPMOY nominee Cameron Heyward giving back to the community

Tune in: For fans who don't want to miss any of the action, NFL+ is here, which means you can now watch the Steelers live and on the go! Watch live local and primetime regular season games on your phone or tablet. Start your free trial today here.

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