In my first piece for BTSC, I opined that character matters, highlighting how, even while he's holding a clipboard, the “trade” of Martavis Bryant for Mason Rudolph was a net gain. Throw in the high-quality character of his college target, James Washington, and it’s win, win, win.
One place I didn’t apply the character question was to the oft-lamented reality the Steelers have shown over the years to lose games they ought to win, playing down to the level of their competition. With the Browns being next up, and after barely escaping last year’s opening game, the issue is all the more pressing.
A man of character is a man who's focused. Life as an NFL player comes with more than its fair share of distractions. Those distractions encourage the overlooking of today’s game in order to look at next week’s game. I’m not saying it is a fireable offense, but how embarrassing was it to not only have a star player, but the head coach, looking past the Jaguars who took care of their business at Heinz Field? The team you look past is the team that beats you. A man of character is the man who's thinking about the game in front of him, the man in front of him, the series in front of him, the play in front of him. I confess that, for all the enjoyment I get out of Big Ben leading a last minute comeback, I often get the sense that he’s not too terribly focused until his back is against the wall. Like too many NBA teams that coast through the regular season, sometimes by the time we wake up, it’s too late to turn on the jets.
Perhaps the clearest mark of maturity is to practice delayed gratification. The immature wants what it wants when it wants it, and isn’t willing to think of the long-term consequences of their choices. The mature realizes that the payoff comes at the end of the labor -- waiting and working patiently. You don’t celebrate your No. 2 in the AFC power ranking when you have to face No. 3 to earn the right to play No. 1. You don’t talk about it, think about it or daydream about it.
If the Steelers want to win the big game this year, they need to have what it takes to win the little games. If the Steelers want to win the big game, they need to make those teams fear us whose entire season can be made by beating us. That means playing every game like its your last game.