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Winning the Fight of Their Lives
Labriola on the win over the Giants
During the time they spent at Heinz Field for training camp, they worked on countless things. From the basics of their offense, defense, and special teams, to critical situa-tions that arise within each phase.
Possession downs, red zone, short yardage, goal-line. They worked on all of that, and devoted multiple days to it. Every minor detail was repped. But what an NFL team needs most at the start of each season cannot be practiced or simulated in any way. It has to be developed by real people in real situations in real time. That’s the ability to find a way a game when it’s there to be won.
It’s a critical characteristic every team that grows into a contender develops during the early stages of a particular season. It’s not possible or realistic to expect a team to come out of the gate firing on all cylinders and then maintain that break-neck pace through 17 weeks of the regular season. There are going to be times when the complete performance in all three phases falls short of the standard, but even on those kinds of days it’s possible for a good team, a resilient team, the kind of team capable of developing into something special to find a way to win the game.
Do what’s necessary, get the win, move on and continue to work to improve, because while the key is to be playing your best down the stretch of the regular season, your record has to be good enough to have kept you relevant to that point or it’s all going to be for naught.
The Steelers are 1-0 because they found a way to win on a Monday night at MetLife Stadium. The opponent was the New York Giants, and the final score was 26-16, and what proves it was one
of those occasions when the Steelers did just enough to find a way to get out of New Jersey with a victory is that for every impressive element of their performance that can be cited there is a corresponding depressing one to counterbalance the euphoria.
Even Coach Mike Tomlin was riding the see-saw when he met the media via Zoom following the game.
“I thought the guys brought energy. I thought
we could have played better,” said Tomlin. “There was some sloppiness that's kind of reflective of where we are (in our development). We dropped a punt there early. We got penalized (on defense) on a third-and-long and extended their drive. They scored on the next play. We kicked off out of bounds. We didn't start with great fluidity on offense. All of those things are reasonable to expect …”
Yes, it’s reasonable to expect every team to wade through that quagmire in the early stages of every regular season, even regular seasons that follow the full complement of preseason games. Since this one did not include any tune-up oppor-tunities, the rough patches were exacerbated and the need to overcome those and just find a way was emphasized.
That the Steelers were able to do find a way was the most significant thing to come out of the night’s work, even though their immediate future will be complicated by a couple of injuries to offensive linemen that sounded ominous when chronicled by Tomlin in the postgame. Starting right tackle Zach Banner injured a knee that brought tears to his eyes and had teammates lining up to console him as he sat on the bench waiting to be driven into the locker room. Stefen Wisniewski’s injury was described by Tomlin as a “pectoral,” which was the description last year when Stephon Tuitt turned out to be finished for the season.
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