Pride is a funny thing. Have too much of it and it can be a detriment. But just the right amount of pride is considered a positive attribute.
Over the final three weeks of the season, we’ll see where the Steelers fall on the pride scale.
These last two seasons have been a direct shot to the pride of the Steelers, particularly for players who have been with the team for Super Bowl runs.
It is because of that pride, both among the players and the organization, that the Steelers won’t tank their final three games as many fans want them to do to get a higher draft pick.
Players and coaches don’t think that way. They don’t go into any game expecting to lose. If they did, they wouldn’t have made it to the highest level of their sport.
As former New York Jets coach Herm Edwards once famously said, “You play to win the game.”
Many have also suggested the Steelers use the final three games to take a look at young players. But other than safety Shamarko Thomas and wide receiver Markus Wheaton, the team’s young guys are already playing.
Which brings us to tonight’s game against Cincinnati. The Bengals (9-4), lead the AFC North by two games over Baltimore and have an outside shot at getting a bye in the first round of the playoffs. The Steelers would love nothing more to damage those chances.
And if you think division opponents damaging one another’s playoff hopes don’t matter, look no further than San Diego’s win in Denver Thursday night. The Chargers, like the Steelers, are a long shot to make the playoffs, but they went into Mile High Stadium and held the high-scoring Broncos to a season-low 20 points.
This will not be a cakewalk for the Bengals, who are 6-0 at home but 3-4 on the road, in large part because of quarterback Andy Dalton’s struggles away from Paul Brown Stadium. Dalton has thrown 16 interceptions, 14 in road games.
There’s also this: AFC North teams are 1-9 in road games against other AFC North teams, with the only victory being Pittsburgh’s win at Cleveland Nov. 24.
Cincinnati is a three-point favorite to sweep the Steelers for the first time since 2009, but that won’t matter.
Take the Steelers to pull out a 24-23 victory
Bills (minus 2) at Jaguars
Jaguars have won four of five. Take the home dog.
Take Jacksonville, 21-17
Baltimore (plus 6) at Detroit
I’m not buying the Ravens as a road team. But I will take Detroit in the dome.
Take Detroit, 27-20
Seattle (minus 7) at New York Giants
No way Seattle loses two in a row, though it’s a long trip.
Take Seattle, 27-17
San Francisco (minus 51/2) at Tampa Bay
Letdown for San Francisco after beating Seattle? Nah.
Take Tampa to cover in a 23-17 loss
Arizona (minus 21/2) at Tennessee
Yet another home underdog. But the Cards will get it done.
Take Arizona, 26-20
New Orleans (minus 51/2) at St. Louis
The Saints have lost three games on the road. But each was played outdoors.
Take New Orleans, 31-20
Philadelphia (minus 41/2) at Minnesota
No Adrian Peterson equals no chance for Minnesota.
Take Philadelphia, 34-17
Chicago (plus 11/2) at Cleveland
The Bears have allowed a 100-yard rusher in six consecutive games.
The Browns won’t make it seven.
Take Chicago, 24-17
Houston (plus 6) at Indianapolis
The Colts are struggling, but Houston’s coach was just fired.
Take Indianapolis, 27-16
New England (minus 21/2) at Miami
The Patriots are back to life without Rob Gronkowski, which wasn’t pretty early this season.
Take New England, 24-21
New York Jets (plus 11) at Carolina
The Panthers should be good and angry after loss at New Orleans last week.
Take Carolina, 24-3
Kansas City (minus 4) at Oakland
The Chiefs righted the ship last week, but this is a rivalry game.
Take Kansas City, 22-16
Washington (plus 6) at Atlanta
A pair of division winners last year who are vying for the league’s worst record.
Take Atlanta, 27-20
Green Bay (off) at Dallas
No Aaron Rodgers again for the Packers.
Take Dallas, 30-17
Last week: 10-4 ATS; 11-3 straight up.
Overall: 83-107-7 ATS; 122-72-1 straight up.
Staff writer F. Dale Lolley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.