By Christina Rivers

The Pittsburgh Steelers are throwing away their season record in the interest of creating a clean slate as they prepare to face the Cincinnati Bengals, their AFC North rivals, on Saturday for a first-round playoff game. The two teams have had a lot of animosity between them in 2015, but many players are moving on from earlier battles to make a real statement in a post-season match. From full focus on being prepared to adjusting the roster, trending Steelers news is painting a picture of a Pittsburgh team that is ready to make a real push ahead of Super Bowl 50.

Williams a question mark at running back

DeAngelo Williams, a free agent that made a huge difference for the Steelers offense this season, may or may not be available for the first-round game. He injured a foot in the season finale against the Cleveland Browns. Williams became the primary rusher for Pittsburgh after Le’Veon Bell was lost earlier in the season due to a knee injury. Williams finished the regular season with 1,274 yards from scrimmage (907 rushing, 367 receiving). “I think technically it’s not even an ankle. It’s a foot (injury),” head coach Mike Tomlin said on Tuesday. “(Williams’) injury situation is one that is noteworthy…he can be characterized as day-to-day.”

The news makes it more likely that the Steelers will have Fitzgerald Toussaint do more in practice leading up to Saturday’s game. Tomlin called Toussaint a guy who is diligent in his preparation. “He’s one of those guys everybody is excited about seeing play, excited about seeing given an opportunity,” said Tomlin. “He brings a no-nonsense, blue-collar approach that I’m sure Steelers Naton appreciate and I’m sure they’re going to grow to like him in the manner we do.” Toussaint is capable of leaving the offensive backfield as a receiving target as well.

Steelers: Embracing legacy of greatness, accolades

Pittsburgh has had a level of talent and success that has gotten a lot of attention. NFL experts have made statements that the Steelers are the most dangerous team in the playoffs this season. Peter King of Sports Illustrated wrote: “Start with (the Steelers’) offense, which possessed more aerial firepower than any other in the league, save for maybe (the Arizona Cardinals)…they’re willing and able to pound the ball down your throat if (opponents) keep both safeties back deep.”

Current players understand the legacy of great Steelers teams that came before the 2015 squad and are embracing it. “We take pride in it,” said linebacker Arthur Moats. “Any time you are able to add to this legacy…it’s great…you don’t want to let those (legendary) guys down. They paved the way for us. They started the whole legacy. We are just glad to be able to carry the torch.” Linebacker Sean Spence said, “From talking to other guys around the league and how their organization works, all of us are blessed to be in such a great organization. Everyone is family here.” That legacy includes the 28th playoff berth (this year) that has made the Steelers the leader in the league with that status over every other NFL team since the NFL merger in 1970.

Steelers refocused entering playoffs

From headlines that Ben Roethlisberger had one-on-one time with receiver Martavis Bryant to get on the same page to the buzz about the challenge the Bengals offer the Steelers, players have been talking about how this game has to be handled.

“We’ve got to play our game, first and foremost,” said offensive lineman Ramon Foster. “We can’t go in (Paul Brown Stadium) with any kind of agenda, or trying to make a statement, and not play our game. We have to play our type of football.”

“Our record is 0-0-0,” defensive end Cam Heyward said. “No wins, no losses, and no ties. All we can do is focus on getting the win now.”

“It’s going to be an intense game,” said receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey. “(The Bengals) are in our division and they know us well, we know them well. I am expecting a heck of a game.”

Christina Rivers has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers and National Football League professionally as a journalist and photographer for over a decade. Rivers studied Exercise Physiology and Sports Psychology at Brigham Young University as a student-athlete. Christina is a freelance writer covering all things NFL as well as a published author. Her work can be found on
Examiner.com.

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