LATROBE, Pa. -- In the words of Vince Lombardi (or was it Rocky?), "it's not whether you get knocked down, it's whether you get up."
The Bills didn't have it easy Wednesday. They had an hour bus ride from their hotel in downtown Pittsburgh to St. Vincent College, nestled in the Appalachian Mountains some 40 miles southeast of the city.
If defensive end Mario Williams' photo on Instagram is any indication, the trip lulled some players to sleep. Yet, not long after getting off the bus, the Bills were in full pads and locked in an intense practice with the Steelers.
The Bills' trip into hostile territory was met immediately with hard hits and loud jeers from the Steelers' defense. It had a noticeable effect: Robert Woods was stripped after his first catch, while Sammy Watkins had a case of "alligator arms" on his first target from EJ Manuel. When the second-team offense took the field, they had to be reminded to come back to the huddle after their first play. In some ways, it was a disorienting environment.
It wasn't pretty, but this is why the Bills are in Latrobe, Pennsylvania this week. They're here to get better and be toughened up by the proud defense of one of the NFL's storied franchises.
In a game, both teams need to play a full 60 minutes. This week, we've only seen the first quarter. The Bills have another joint practice Thursday and then step into Heinz Field for a preseason game on Saturday. That gives them plenty of chances to respond and puts the onus on the Steelers to maintain their early intensity.
If the Bills withstand Wednesday's blow and deal a counter-punch the rest of this week, they'll be better for it.