Veterans keep Steelers focused on Browns

PITTSBURGH -- The New York Jets won eight of their first 11 games in 2008 but finished the season as a cautionary tale, one that Jerricho Cotchery is more than happy to tell any of his teammates who are inclined to take a peek at what is going on around the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"I was on a team that was 8-3 after 11 games and didn't make the playoffs," Cotchery said. "I felt like that was a good team at that time. At the same time that mindset of attacking it week to week kind of left a little bit and that kept that team out of the playoffs."

The Steelers have tried to retain their tunnel vision even though a two-game winning streak has revived their once faint playoff hopes. The 4-6 Steelers are just one game out of the race for the second-wild card spot, and the AFC is so top heavy this season that an argument can be made that 8-8 might be good enough to make the playoffs.

All of this is what Mike Tomlin refers to as elevator music, and the seventh-year coach isn't the only one who has been trying to keep the Steelers squarely focused on the Browns, the next team up on a schedule that includes four games within the AFC North.

Veteran safety Ryan Clark relayed a conversation he had with rookie running back Le'Veon Bell in the training room earlier this week. When Bell asked Clark how he was doing the latter said, "I'm just day to day man. I'm trying to be good enough to be one point better than the Cleveland Browns on Sunday."

Clark later said he wasn't trying to send any sort of message to Bell. But he is among the team leaders who have tried to establish an unmistakable tone in the locker room this week.

"We can't win the four games we lost at the beginning of the season," Clark said. "They're not going to let us replay those, but we can win against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday and that's our focus."

Cotchery agreed.

"I believe in momentum," the veteran wide receiver said, "but you really have to take one game at a time, especially in the second half of the season."