As a former player and coach in the game of football, I understand better than most that you don’t ever get caught looking ahead. Quite often, when a rivalry game was on the horizon, it would not be a bit surprising to see the fan base and media start looking ahead. It gets even worse when your opponent the week prior is less than stellar and has played pretty poorly all season.
From young kids to grown men, the natural instinct is to look past the opponent when your rival is waiting in the wings. The lesson learned can sometimes be a hard one if the focus and work isn’t there and suddenly you’ve lost to a lesser team. The Pittsburgh Steelers find themselves in a very similar situation this week as the rival Baltimore Ravens are waiting in the wings. Before they can get to the Ravens though there is work to be done.
The Kansas City Chiefs come in at 1-7 for a prime-time, Monday night match-up that back in the spring looked extremely enticing but not now. The Chiefs have yet to lead in a game this year other than the overtime win they have. If I’m a player, I’m not taking this team for granted and I’m sure as hell not looking past them and all I have to do is look back to last season when the Steelers went into KC for a prime-time match-up. The Steelers were heavy favorites, yet had to scratch and claw their way to a 13-9 win.
As a fan however, I can afford to look ahead because there is so much at stake for the Steelers when Baltimore comes in next week. The Ravens’ 35-7 beat-down of the Steelers on opening day of last year coupled with a last-second loss to Ravens in Pittsburgh later in the season has left nothing but nasty tastes in the mouths of both players and fans.
The fact that the Steelers trail the Ravens by a game and probably will this time next week (did I just look ahead? D’oh!) means something too. If you need proof at all of how important playing playoff games at home is then I give you the 2011 Pittsburgh Steelers who went 12-4 but had to go to Denver because they didn’t win the division. Thus, winning the AFC North is not a ‘good idea,’ it’s a must.
The point I’m making is this; beating the Chiefs is as big of a priority right now as beating the Ravens will be next week. It’s home game and a prime-time game and it is clearly a must-win. Mike Tomlin will clearly have the attention of this team and he should. He can leave the ‘looking ahead’ to people like me.