As several fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers continue to stir over the teams embarrassing 43-19 loss to the Buffalo Bills Saturday, the team is staring at one remaining game on their preseason schedule. A date with the Carolina Panthers Thursday night at Heinz Field. However, for the players on the team who have already solidified their spot on the roster, the regular season begins now.
If Mike Tomlin is smart, the starting offense and the majority of the starting defense shouldn't even see the field Thursday. Simply put them through their normal warm up routine, throw and catch some passes then hand them some sunflower seeds and tell them to watch the backups trying to just make the team by fighting for their careers.
For Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Cameron Heyward and James Harrison, now is the time to start watching film on the New England Patriots. Whether they are quarterbacked by Tom Brady or Jimmy Grapoppolo doesn't matter, now is the time to gear up for games which actually matter. No longer will the team have to answer questions on how much they will play in the upcoming game. Rather, they will be preparing to win the first of, hopefully, many games in 2015.
Despite their performance Saturday in up-state New York, the transition away from the preseason could be just the ticket for getting over such an embarrassing loss on national television. Time to turn the page and prepare yourself to be the best team you can be on September 10th.
Not only will it be a welcome sight for the players, but the coaches can finally take the training wheels off their high performance vehicles and take them for a test drive. Todd Haley won't have to think about calling plays for Landry Jones throwing to Shakim Phillips. Instead, he will be dialing up pass after pass from Roethlisberger to Brown.
For Keith Butler, getting and keeping players like James Harrison on the field for more than three series to harass the opposition will be a welcome sign for a defense in desperate need of playmakers. Getting players like Mike Mitchell and Stephon Tuitt back in the lineup will help bolster a defense which was shellacked in every facet on Saturday, and unleashing some new wrinkles will be a welcome addition to a pretty vanilla repertoire.
Fans won't forget the loss on Saturday, despite what happens this Thursday against the Panthers, but if one thing certainly will allow them to forget the dismal performance it would be a season opening road victory over the much maligned Patriots.
For that to happen, a tremendous amount of preparation will need to take place, and that preparation starts now.