Actually, that’s not true. It’s primarily been called one thing: a “revenge game,” meaning the Steelers need to exact revenge after two losses to Jacksonville at Heinz Field in 2017—including a 45-42 defeat in the divisional round of the playoffs.
Does Pittsburgh really need to get its revenge on a 3-6 Jaguars team that’s been struggling and floundering this season after making it all the way to the AFC title game last year? Better yet, are the Steelers seriously thinking about revenge right now?
If they are, they really shouldn’t be.
Riding a five-game winning-streak that now has them at 6-2-1 and in the second seed in the AFC, the Steelers look poised, focused and disciplined. The players seem to have bought into whatever it is head coach Mike Tomlin and his staff are selling them. After a rough start to 2018, Pittsburgh is rolling better than it has in quite some time.
The Steelers aren’t just on a five-game roll; they’ve effectively rolled over their past five opponents by an average score of 35.4-18.6; that’s approaching 2007 Patriots-level dominance.
And why are they rolling along so well right now? It’s because, again, they’re focused. Remember a year ago at this time when Pittsburgh was in the middle of winning eight games in a row? How did most of those victories come about? They came about by the proverbial skin of the teeth, thanks to a level of play that didn’t always seem focused and disciplined.
While the streak was fun, it was hard to really drown out the fans who were warning anyone who would listen that that kind of football wasn’t necessarily of the championship-level variety.
Sure enough, in that aforementioned playoff game, a slow start and a disjointed finish led to an earlier-than-expected postseason exit to a Jacksonville squad many figured was a paper champion of the AFC South, a team without an elite quarterback that was winning on borrowed time.
But if we’re truly being honest with ourselves, in addition to being a plain old bad match-up for Pittsburgh, the 2017 Jaguars were a team playing with an edge, a focus, what Apollo Creed called the eye of the tiger.
They were a group that had bought in to what its coach was selling. People continue to criticize the Steelers for overlooking Jacksonville a year ago, and point to ridiculous examples like Tomlin’s interview with Tony Dungy months earlier or some Tweet from Le’Veon Bell days before the playoffs.
But if the Jaguars were such an inferior opponent, how were they able to go to New England one week later and build a 10-point lead over the mighty Patriots in the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship game?
Obviously, whatever mojo the Jaguars had has been lost this year, and the Steelers don’t need to give them any reason to think they still have a chance to make some noise in 2018.
Pittsburgh doesn’t need to do anything but play its game this Sunday. If the Steelers defeat Jacksonville but then go on to lose again in the first round of the playoffs in January, is anyone going to say, “Well, at least the Steelers got their revenge over the Jaguars back on November 18.”?
I highly doubt it.
In life, they say living well is the best revenge. In sports, winning is the ultimate revenge. Players can talk trash on the field and brag about winning individual match-ups, but the only winning that matters is posted on the scoreboard for all to see.
The Steelers don’t need to worry about the Jaguars—at least not what the 2017 version did to them.
The Steelers have something special going on right now, and they can’t allow the need for revenge to get in the way of it.