The Pittsburgh Steelers celebrated as divisional champions on Sunday, with the team breaking out AFC North title hats and t-shirts after coming back to beat the Indianapolis Colts.
The shirts honored the team’s ninth AFC North championship, but did so with a slogan that acknowledges the fact that in Pittsburgh, a divisional title is largely seen as a means to an end:
WON NOT DONE
“We’re humbled and honored to be AFC North champs,” head coach Mike Tomlin said after the win. “When we started this journey on July 20th, that was the initial goal, then we go from there. It’s good to be at this point, good to push forward. … We’re excited about the hats and T-shirts, man (smiling). We’ve been waiting to put them on for a few weeks now. It’s a lot of excitement in there, and rightfully so, man. They’ve earned that.”
The victory not only secured the division but also snapped a three-game losing streak for the Steelers, who had lost to Washington, Buffalo and Cincinnati in consecutive weeks after starting out 11-0.
“Victory is sweet,” Tomlin said. “It’s been a month or so for us, so we’ve been through some adversity. But just growth in the midst of that. Hopefully these negative experiences can galvanize us, man, and strengthen us as we move forward.”
With the Steelers stuck in neutral, the rest of the division didn’t seem keen on letting them back across the finish line. Both Cleveland and Baltimore are tied at 10-5 entering the final week of the season, just two games behind the Steelers. Pittsburgh avoided a must-win situation at Cleveland in Week 17 by wrapping up the division against the Colts.
“We feel it’s an awesome division,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. “We had a chance to do it the last couple weeks. We didn’t get it done. So I’m proud of the guys to finally get it done. It’s cool to be division champs. We knew we were in the Playoffs. But this wasn’t our end goal. This is one of our goals. We said with these two weeks to go, kind of our post-season pre-season.
“We have a tough division, we’ve got a lot of great players in our division, got a lot of good teams,” added defensive end Stephon Tuitt. “And it’s not easy to come by this. We do not take this for granted. And this is opportunity not for myself, who has won a couple of these, but for the younger guys on the team to see how you’ve got to work for it, to just get an opportunity to wear shirt and a hat like this.”
The Steelers will get a bit of a respite, with Sunday’s game at Cleveland now of the low-stakes variety before entering the postseason, where the real story of the 2020 season will be told.
“We’ve got some big battles that lie ahead,” Tomlin said.