Already, every team in the AFC North is pointing toward the final weekend of the season, when the Steelers host the Cincinnati Bengals and current frontrunner Cleveland travels to Baltimore.
If the standings are unchanged — just a half-game separates the four — it appears the Steelers and Baltimore are in the best shape, considering they’re at home. But for that to matter, securing a few road wins would bolster their chances of winning the division and advancing to the postseason.
“It going to be a George Foreman-Muhammad Ali type of fight on that last weekend,” Steelers guard Ramon Foster said. “But we have to take care of business before then, both at home and on the road.”
The Steelers have three road games remaining, including a Dec. 7 matchup at Cincinnati, followed by a visit to Atlanta on Dec. 14. Yet the road game that matters most is against Tennessee on “Monday Night Football.”
“If you’re going to go to a Super Bowl and win it, you have to win road games,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. “You have to know how to play on the road and play through adversity. We have to use these road games, whether good or bad, as teaching tools.”
The outcome in Tennessee could make or break the Steelers’ playoff aspirations. The Steelers are coming off a disappointing road loss at the New York Jets and now travel to Nashville, Tenn., to face a two-win team looking to play the role of spoiler.
“We have to be more consistent on the road,” linebacker Jason Worilds said. “We have to get to even on the road. It’s a byproduct of being the team we want to be.
“We know it’s a big stage for Tennessee, and they’re trying to right their ship. We know we’re going to get their best shot. We have to set the pace early on and get into our groove.”
Foster said it’s imperative the Steelers keep pace in the division, and they are in a position that winning a road game or two could dictate the division race.
“We have to win those games because most of the AFC North teams are solid at home,” Foster said. “We have to commit to winning on the road, especially in the playoffs. We don’t want to leave our playoff fate in someone else’s hands.”
Among AFC North teams, the Browns won at Cincinnati, Baltimore won in Cleveland and Cincinnati won in Baltimore. The Steelers have yet to win a divisional road game this season and are 3-5 since 2012.
“The way the AFC North is going, those road games are big,” cornerback William Gay said. “The push starts now. November and December football equals February.
“I don’t know how many wins it’s going to take to get into the playoffs. I just want to get into the dance, but you can punch a ticket by winning on the road.”