Make no mistake about it, the 2017 edition of the Pittsburgh Steelers is on a very specific scavenger hunt, with the Lombardi Trophy being the one prize that’s not negotiable. To get to the Super Bowl, they must finally and completely solve the riddle that is the New England Patriots. The front office knows it, the coaches know it, the players know it, and the fans know it—as do the media. But guess who else knows this very fact. A teal, black and gold-clad bunch known as the Jacksonville Jaguars, and they're going to wear it like a thorny crown of motivation when they march into Heinz Field on Sunday, looking to shut everybody up by proving their validity.
It's natural to look forward in anticipation of the opportunity to finally vanquish your tormentor and reach the promised land. But it's crucial to make sure you don't put the cart before the horse and squander the opportunity to face the foe you so desperately want another shot at.
Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t seem to be looking past Jalen Ramsey and company. In fact, he expressed a desire to get an opportunity for redemption by facing the Jags again. The Steelers’ quarterback has also praised his divisional round opponent by stating that they do everything well.
Ben's comments were fine. He said nothing wrong. But on the other side, they never heard "we want a chance to redeem ourselves." Instead, they're taking it as a slight. A.J. Bouye responded with, "Be careful what you wish for".
On the other side of the ball, Tyson Alualu is excited about facing his former team in the playoffs. Alualu never made it this far into the playoffs as a Jaguar and he has a genuine craving to beat the team that drafted him tenth overall in 2010.
These guys get it.
Then there's Mike Mitchell.
The Steelers’ safety man jumped the gun a tad in an interview with The MMQB (weeks ago). Mitchell was quoted as saying, “We’re going to play again. We can play them in hell, we can play them in Haiti, we can play them in New England... We’re gonna win.”
While you can't help being excited about the drive and determination of Mitchell’s comments, it's way too early to be looking ahead to the AFC title game. All focus now needs to be on the team that’s first on the playoff schedule. Jacksonville is most likely taking this all in and garnering fantastic motivation from it. Don't think the Jaguars aren't even more excited about storming into a stadium where they proved they could win by a big margin and, in so doing, prove they're for real—for real?
There’s nothing more dangerous than a team with an "us against the world" mentality. I can hear the post-game interview now: "Nobody thought we could do it. But we banded together and proved everybody wrong".
In the playoffs, there's no Admiral Ackbar. There are no traps. Nobody should be overlooked and everyone has earned his spot. But underdogs that feel slighted can rip out your throat. I just hope Mike Mitchell didn't give them all the incentive they need.
Do you think Mike Mitchell's comments on the Patriots were too premature and ill-conceived?
This poll is closed
Yes. He needs to keep quiet.
No. They were fine.