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Steelers Analysis

Will Short Week after Loss Hurt or Help Steelers? Depends on Who You Ask

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Steelers RB Najee Harris
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris gets tackled against the Arizona Cardinals on Dec. 3, 2023. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

PITTSBURGH — Week 14 of the 2023 NFL season represents something of a contradiction for the Pittsburgh Steelers, with a short week of preparation ahead of their home Thursday Night Football date with the New England Patriots.

On one hand, the Steelers are very, very happy to be able to quickly move on from Sunday’s embarrassing 24-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals out of their mouths.

On the other hand, a whole lot went wrong in that game against the Cardinals, and the Steelers will have just one full practice session on Wednesday in order to work out the kinks.

So it is a positive, or a negative to be playing again so soon after the worst and most painful defeat of the season? It depends on who you ask, and their perspective on things.

“I will say that you appreciate the short week in the sense that you get that bad taste out of your mouth quicker and you’re not waiting until Sunday,” offensive coordinator Eddie Faulkner said. “From that light, it’s a little bit easier. There are challenges obviously going all the way back to last week and getting prepared for this game on a short week, making sure you’re detailing your work the way you want.”

Head coach Mike Tomlin was quick to point out that the short week is the same for both teams — and it’s not as if the Patriots don’t have issues of their own. They were shut out, losing 6-0 to the Los Angeles Chargers. It was the second time this season they were shut out, and the fourth time they failed to score a touchdown. They’re on their second — or maybe third — starting quarterback, not because of injury but because of repeated failures.

It’s easy for the Steelers to be caught up in their own problems, but there likely isn’t a single Patriot that wouldn’t trade them.

Paradoxically, being worried about the other side is how the Steelers got to this point. Several Steelers players have now pointed out that the team did not take the then-2-10 Cardinals seriously enough, and that was part of the reason the Steelers didn’t play up to their capabilities on Sunday.

“Obviously, Sunday showed that as far as us being on the details and things, that wasn’t the case,” veteran wide receiver Allen Robinson II said. “We can’t play like that an expect to win games at this point in time in the season.”

So what’s the recipe for acknowledging those problems, coming up with a plan to fix them and then moving on, in limited time?

“Being a short week, you do want to correct the things that went wrong last game, but you can’t harp on too much, because we do have a short week. Us, being a team, being grown-ups and knowing that we did make a lot of mistakes last game, we’ve got to move on and worry about the Patriots,” running back Najee Harris said. 

“We’re still in the hunt. We still have a good chance at doing everything we want. Everything is still open for us. So putting that game to rest is kinda what we did and now we’re worried about the Patriots.”

Of course, by worrying about the Patriots, it’s part focus on the Xs and Os components that will be specific to this game, but also just honing in on those same details that were missed last week.

“We need to worry about what happens in this locker room, first and foremost,” T.J. Watt said. “It’s about us.”

Is the focus on the Patriots? The Steelers? Focus ahead, or behind?

It’s a confusing week. At least it’s short. Harris might have made the most prescient point, though: Just find a way to win.

“All we’re worried about right now is the Patriots and getting this win,” he said. “We have a short little bye week. In that bye week, we can worry about correcting this week and even the Cardinals game. But right now, our main mindset is just worried about winning.”