PITTSBURGH (AP) — Maybe it’s Ramon Foster’s pep talk in the tunnel before the Pittsburgh Steelers head out onto the field. Sure, let’s go with that.
Before every prime-time game, the longtime left guard will gather his teammates around him and remind them that the rest of the NFL has stopped.
There is only one game on.
And the Steelers are playing in it. Their peers are watching.
So, potentially, are all the doubters.
Time to put them in their place.
“I tell the guys, `For everybody that said you weren’t going to make it, this is why (we play),'” Foster said Wednesday.
“For the teacher that failed you in geometry in the 10th grade, this is why. For the girl that didn’t give you her number, this is why you’re playing. Whatever the reason is. It’s mentioned. Whatever the motivation is, it’s out there.”
Whatever it is, it’s working. Pittsburgh (9-2) has won 10 straight games (playoffs included) that kicked off after 7 p.m. heading into a visit to Cincinnati (5-6) next Monday.
The Steelers are in the middle of a stretch in which they play four straight in prime-time.
“I don’t know if there’s any secret recipe to it,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. “Maybe we’re just night rangers.”
Or maybe the offense that sometimes looks sleepy underneath the sun’s glare gets it together when the lights are on.
Pittsburgh is averaging 30.1 points during its 10-game unbeaten prime-time run, a number the Steelers almost hit on the nose in a 31-28 victory over Green Bay last Sunday night.
The victory came on the heels of a 40-17 hammering of Tennessee the previous Thursday night. Roethlisberger has thrown eight touchdown passes in his past eight quarters, including four to Antonio Brown.
“It’s fun when you win and you put on a good show,” Roethlisberger said.
One, however, that can provide logistical issues for coaching and training staffs.
The Steelers had just three days to recover from a taut win in Indianapolis on Nov. 12 and get ready to prepare for Tennessee.
The payoff came with a long weekend off before facing Green Bay. Pittsburgh’s reward for extending their winning streak to six was an extra day off since the Steelers play the Bengals on Monday.
After that? A short week before hosting Baltimore again on Sunday night.
“You have to be smart,” Roethlisberger said. “Bill Cowher used to say don’t be soft but don’t be stupid. You have to get yourself ready to go play the game. Having these kind of mismatched Thursday nights, Sunday nights, does make it hard to get into a routine. But we’re all professionals.”
And, if they’re being honest, showoffs.
“Everybody likes to turn it up a little bit when it’s prime time,” wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey said. “Now, you’d like people to turn it on for a 1 p.m. game too. Guys do. But it’s something a little different under the light.”
Heyward-Bey would know. His high school field in Reisterstown, Maryland, didn’t have lights.
So Heyward-Bey and the rest of the Eagles were forced to play home games on Saturday afternoons. The vibe wasn’t quite right. So Heyward-Bey donated the money so “Friday Night Lights” could become a thing at his alma mater.
“It’s just a different mentality,” Heyward-Bey said.
As the Steelers talked on Wednesday, someone walked around the locker room handing out voting panels for the annual NFL Top 100 Player poll.
Filling out a ballot can be tricky.
Since the majority of games are played within a six-hour window on Sundays, most players rely on highlights and tape to get a read for what’s going on elsewhere. That’s not a problem when you’re in the only game on.
And yes, Steelers cornerback Artie Burns sees the correlation.
“In this league, the best to get on that Top 100 is primetime games, big-time moments,” Burns said. “Sunday nights. Thursday nights. Monday nights. Playoffs. Super Bowls. Those are the games that are going to be remembered. Those are the games that are going to get you on that piece of paper.”
Of course, winning those games helps.
“I feel like some teams do get a little bit amped up about it,” Foster said. “When you get a little bit of adversity in prime-time games, some teams cave, some teams rise to it.”
At the moment, the Steelers are firmly in the latter group.