Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown is soft-spoken off of the field. He embraces his leadership role and his play on the field speaks at the decibel level of an F-16 at takeoff. When he speaks in interviews, it's usually from that leadership perspective and, often times, that becomes a viewpoint of the bigger picture.
Brown is well aware of the disappointment stemming from the team's 20-13 loss to the New York Jets on Sunday, and how the loss cost the Steelers the opportunity to sit in the ceremonial first-place seat for at least a week. He's also aware of the target on the backs of the Steelers, particularly from teams experiencing scant success during the current season.
"We know we're playing against opponents who want to get our best shot, and it's just something our organization established from walking in our lobby and seeing how every team has gone to playoffs, the Super Bowl," Brown told Chris Bradford of the Beaver County Times. "We can't relax."
Is that an indictment of the Steelers' relaxing before and during the loss to the Jets? Or is this reference more the grounded attitude which the Steelers must take before every game they play from Week 11 until the end of the season? Perhaps it's mainly a self-motivational pep talk, since Brown had only two career lost fumbles going into Week 10 vs. the Jets, but had two more lost fumbles by halftime.
Turning the ball over is the surest way to invite an underdog to grab an upset victory.
The Steelers face the struggling Tennessee Titans on Monday, looking to move to 7-4 before their bye in Week 12. That would put them in an excellent position to compete for an AFC North championship or a wild card berth in the 2014 AFC Playoffs. Given how tight the AFC North is, a nine-win season possibly could win the division, but it's equally possible for a 10-win season to miss the playoffs.
That bigger picture is wisely painted with broad strokes, but the complex task of preparing for the Titans is best left to the thin-bristled brush. Not relaxing, as Brown put it, is obvious. Remembering to play each game with playoff-level intensity is critical. Four wins in their next six games is oddly similar to the kind of streak the team needed in 2013 to get to the postseason, and they came this close to accomplishing it. With a better head-start this year but in a tougher division and conference, it appears the same kind of thing will need to happen again.