PITTSBURGH – The same player who told his teammates to just go out and have fun in the second half Sunday night at Bank of America Stadium had a different message after that fun produced a resounding 37-19 win over the Carolina Panthers.
“Hopefully we can enjoy this win and not be like, ‘Ah, we’re the greatest team ever,’ ” Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel said. “We’ve got to continue to stay grounded. We’ve got to continue to work hard. We’ve got to continue to have a chip on our shoulder and continue to work like we’re underdogs.”
The Steelers might not be underdogs by Las Vegas standards any time soon.
Their next three games are against teams that have a 1-8 record, and they host winless Tampa Bay on Sunday.
The Steelers have a real chance at going on a run and entering an Oct. 20 Monday Night Football game against the visiting Houston Texans at 5-1.
Of course, a trap door or two could appear real quickly if the Steelers buy into such thinking.
That is why coach Mike Tomlin did not so much as crack a smile during his postgame news conference at Bank of America Stadium.
“I’m not going to crown them tonight,” Tomlin said after the Steelers beat the Panthers for a fifth consecutive time and improved to 2-1. “They did what was necessary. They hung together. There’s a lot to be learned from that and a lot to be gained from that, and hopefully we will.”
Veterans such as Keisel will help Tomlin keep the younger players from hopping on what the eighth-year coach calls “the emotional roller coaster.”
It was Keisel who sent a pointed message to his teammates last Monday when he said the Steelers players could not assume success is a given based on what they have done in the past, no what the level.
The 13th-year veteran also said less than a week after a 26-6 loss in Baltimore that it was incumbent upon all of the players to wring everything they could out of every work day -- whether it was in the weight room, a meeting room or on the practice field.
Keisel did not stray from that message even in the afterglow of a victorious locker room in Carolina.
“You’ve got to stay humble,” he said. “You’ve got to have that urgency when you come to work and prepare. It’s gotta be a weekly thing.”