When talking about bad luck, the Pittsburgh Steelers must feel snake bitten after watching their starting running back get injured in the final week of the regular season, prior to the AFC Wild Card game. In 2014, it was Le'Veon Bell who hyper-extended his knee in Week 17 and missed the AFC Wild Card game against the Baltimore Ravens -- a game which the team lost.
DeAngelo Williams injured his ankle last week, Week 17, against the Cleveland Browns which puts his availability for Saturday's AFC Wild Card game against the Cincinnati Bengals in serious jeopardy. Last year, when Bell went down, the team turned to a combination of Dri Archer, Josh Harris and Ben Tate -- who was signed the week of the playoff game.
Not the stable of running backs the Steelers hoped to have when they were preparing to play the most important game of the season. This year, if Williams cannot play, the team will turn to Fitzgerald Toussaint, Jordan Todman and Will Johnson to shoulder the load at running back.
It might not seem like a big difference from one year to the next, in terms of the capabilities of the backfield without the starter in the mix, but quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sees it differently.
"Where it's different than last year is we have Fitz [Fitzgerald Toussaint], [Jordan] Todman and Will Johnson. We've got guys that have been here for longer than half a week like we did last year," Roethlisberger said on 93.7 The Fan on his weekly radio spot on the Cook and Poni show.
Replacing Williams will be no easy task, and no one knows this better than Roethlisberger.
"DeAngelo has been awesome for this team," Roethlisberger said. "I think his presence in the pass game whether it's blocking or receiving out of the backfield has been huge for us."
If Williams is unable to play, the rest of the team will have to step up their game and help carry the load. Roethlisberger called out one player in particular, and that is second year WR Martavis Bryant.
"He needs to understand that, and this is coming from love from me and other guys, that this time of year, you've got to toughen up. You've got to get tough and you've got to make tough plays and you've got to make tough catches and you have to find ways to do everything you can to help this team," Roethlisberger said.
For a locker room filled with players who have either never been in a playoff game, or never won one, Roethlisberger knows the message to send to his teammates is clear. Just take it one game at a time.
"It doesn't matter what records are. It doesn't matter that Antonio Brown led the league or whatever. All the stats, all the numbers, all the everything gets thrown out the window...It's really just about your desire and your want to...and just knowing that you're going to have to have the ultimate sacrifice this week and it's only one week at a time."
The Steelers will look to win their first playoff game since 2010, when they advanced to Super Bowl 45, by defeating the Bengals in Cincinnati, OH on Saturday night at 8:20 p.m. EDT.