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Steelers AFC North Underdogs, but Maintain Super Bowl Aspirations

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UNITY TWP., Pa. — Since the middle part of the 1970s, the standard for the Pittsburgh Steelers has been the Super Bowl.

The franchise that was the biggest part of Pittsburgh being named the City of Champions in that decade has won six Lombardi Trophies, tied for the most in NFL history.

But this season, the Steelers are in something of an unfamiliar position. Coming off a 9-6-1 season and the departures of star skill position players Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, the Steelers aren’t among the favorites to win Super Bowl LIV on February 2, 2020.

New England, owners of six Lombardi Trophies of their own, and Kansas City are current the favorites at 6/1 odds. The Steelers? All the way down in a tie for 10th at 20/1.

In fact, the Steelers aren’t even the favorite to win their own division, with the upstart Cleveland Browns owning the top spot in the betting odds.

So what does that mean the Steelers have been talking about during the first few days of their 2019 training camp? The Super Bowl, of course. As head coach Mike Tomlin loves to say, “the standard is the standard.”

And while that hasn’t — and probably won’t change — the Steelers know that some things on the field need to change if they’re going to beat those odds and bring home Super Bowl win No. 7.

“At the end of the day, we’ve got to put it on the field,” cornerback Joe Haden said. “We’ve got to put it on tape. We didn’t make the playoffs last year, so they can say what they want. It’s up to us to make it happen.”

And they don’t feel like they’re that far away. Yes, the offense has lost talented players, but there have been significant additions to the defense in the form of first-round pick Devin Bush and free agents Mark Barron and Steven Nelson.

“If we do what we’re supposed to do, that narrative will change real quick, I’m sure,” guard Ramon Foster said.

While the players are aware that they are capable of achieving the greatness that they strive for, there’s also a very real acknowledgement that it’s been a long time since the Steelers have been there.

The only player on the roster that is left from the team’s 2008-09 Super Bowl win is quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Two months later, they signed Foster. After the 2010 season, the Steelers made the Super Bowl once again, this time losing to the Green Bay Packers. Center Maurkice Pouncey was a rookie that year. For those players, and some of the team’s other veterans like Haden and defensive lineman Tyson Alualu (entering 10th season) and defensive lineman Cameron Heyward (entering ninth season), there is a real sense of urgency to get there.

“That’s why I play this game,” Heyward said. “It’s something I love to do and to get your name etched in history is what you want. The only way to do that is to win the Super Bowl.”

“That’s the goal, man,” added Haden. “That’s the thing that just being able to play for the Steelers and knowing that playoffs is not it. They want to win championships. They’ve won a lot of championships. They’re trying to get to seven. Just knowing that that’s the goal here, that’s what everybody is shooting for. It just makes you want to go from the first day, from day one, and that’s what we’re looking to do.”

Steelers

Titans Shut Down Practice after Multiple Positive COVID-19 Tests

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The Tennessee Titans have shut down their practices this week after multiple positive COVID-19 tests within the organization, the team announced on Tuesday in advance of their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers scheduled for this Sunday in Nashville.

The Titans had three new player positives and five new staff positives on Tuesday, and both the Titans, and their opponents from Sunday the Minnesota Vikings, have shut down practices for the week, according to a report by Tom Pelissero of NFL Network.

“Out of an abundance of caution, the organization has decided to work remotely today as we follow NFL protocols related to the COVID-19 virus,” the Titans said in a statement to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. “Several tests have come back positive and we are working through the process of confirming them. We will have more information [Wednesday].”

According to a report ESPN’s Dianna Russini, the NFL is shutting down the Titans’ entire week of practice until Saturday, which would obviously put the status of Sunday’s game in jeopardy.

Update, 10:31 a.m: The NFL and NFLPA released a joint statement later on Tuesday morning:

“​On Tuesday morning, the Titans COVID testing results returned three new player positives and five new personnel positives. The Titans will suspend in-person club activities starting today. Likewise, the Vikings, who played the Titans on Sunday, will also suspend in-person club activities. Both clubs are working closely with the NFL and the NFLPA, including our infectious disease experts, to evaluate close contacts, perform additional testing and monitor developments. All decisions will be made with health and safety as our primary consideration. We will continue to share updates as more information becomes available.”

Update, 10:47 a.m: Kevin Seifert of ESPN has confirmed that the tests are not false positives.

Update, 11:43 a.m: The Steelers have postponed Mike Tomlin’s press conference, which was scheduled for noon.

Update, 11:50 a.m: Betting on the Steelers-Titans game has been taken off the board in several casinos, including Parx in Pennsylvania.

Update, 11:57 a.m:  Steelers spokesman Burt Lauten has released the following statement:

“We have been in contact with the NFL regarding the positive COVID-19 tests with the Tennessee Titans. We have been informed to proceed with our game preparations for Sunday’s game until we are informed otherwise.

“We will provide more information when it becomes available.”

Update, 12:01 p.m: Albert Breer of NFL Network is reporting that Titans outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen tested positive last week and is not one of the eight positive cases announced by the team on Tuesday.

Stay with Steelers Now with more on this developing story.

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Steelers LT Alejandro Villanueva Explains His Decision to Honor Alwyn Cashe

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Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva explains why decided to honor deceased US Army sergeant Alwyn Cashe on his teammate instead of joining the rest of team in honoring police shooting victim Antwon Rose, Jr via Zoom with members of the media on Monday, Sept. 28, 2020.

The Steelers had previously announced that the entire team would be honoring Rose, but Villanueva decided to change his mind and honor Cashe. He spoke with Mike Tomlin about that decision, but team captains Cameron Heyward and Ben Roethlisberger said they were surprised by Villanueva’s decision.

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Steelers Finish Week 3 in First Place in AFC North

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It’s early in the season, but being alone in first place can never be a bad things, and that’s where the Steelers find themselves.

The Steelers started the season 3-0 with Sunday’s 28-21 victory over the Houston Texans and Monday night, the Baltimore Ravens dropped a 34-20 decision to the Kansas City Chiefs. With the loss, the Ravens fell to 2-1, leaving the Steelers alone at the top of the division.

The Steelers are 3-0 for the first time since 2010, and are at the top of the division for the first time in a while. The last time the Steelers were atop the AFC North was after the end of Week 15 in the 2018 season.

The Ravens will fall into a second-place tie with the Cleveland Browns at 2-1. The Cincinnati Bengals are 0-2-1.

The Steelers will put their first-place standing and unbeaten record on the line on Sunday against a team in an identical scenario: the 3-0 Tennessee Titans, which lead the AFC North at 3-0.

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