Relief, Redemption and Perspective

Mike Prisuta was in Cincinnati and found in the locker room a relieved bunch of Steelers who refuse to believe they've arrived as a contender ... yet.

CINCINNATI – Doug Legursky sat in a pair of uniform pants splattered by blood and looked like a guy who had no interest in taking them off.

"That's a part of the game when you don't wear gloves," Legursky observed. "I'm a bloody mess out there but I wouldn't want it any other way."

Not after Steelers 24, Bengals 17.

Not after a team that had limped into Paul Brown Stadium at 2-3 and quickly fallen behind the Bengals 14-3 had managed to suddenly gather itself and literally run Cincinnati over.

That's what made Sunday night worth savoring. That and the extreme circumstances attached to the Steelers' first AFC North Division battle of 2012 based on that 2-3 record and their 0-For-The-Road showing through previous trips to Denver, Oakland and Nashville.

"We needed it, man," Willie Colon maintained. "We were in the tank. It was one of those make-or-break games."

Added Brett Keisel: "This is the happiest I've been at .500 ever, I think."

No wonder that sense of relief was so palpable in the visitor's locker room. Amid that collective exhale there was also a sense of redemption.

Ike Taylor had followed A.J. Green around and almost pitched a shutout.

Jonathan Dwyer had resurfaced after spending the last couple of games on the inactive list, and ran to daylight.

Keenan Lewis didn't drop any interceptions this time, and had played lights out against the run and the pass.

The list goes on. But what went on after the understandable outpouring of emotional satisfaction regarding what the Steelers had just accomplished was the expression of an individual and collective resolve to not stop now.

These same Steelers had seemingly re-established themselves, their identity and their character and their ability, by following up the Oakland debacle with a victory over Philadelphia.

But then they had followed that up with the Nightmare in Nashville, and that's what had made their prospects so precarious heading into Cincinnati in the first place. They can't go down that road again and they know it.

"The key now is how do we respond?" Colon stressed. "We got this one, we can't be inconsistent. We can't say ‘We have a big win,' and then Washington comes to town and we just kind of sit on our butts. We gotta fight and we gotta start fighting now."

They'll fight to catch Baltimore eventually. But what they'll fight to do first and foremost is establish that they're capable of giving what they gave to the Bengals, giving more than they gave to the Bengals, on a more consistent basis.

"I don't care about Baltimore right now," Colon said. "We have Washington next and that's all I'm worried about. We can't be inconsistent."

"We need to keep things going and start stacking wins," Keisel agreed.

Despite all the questions the Steelers seemingly answered against Cincinnati, that nagging consistency issue won't begin to be addressed at least until this coming weekend's visit from RGIII.

For the third time this season the Steelers avoided losing two in a row. But they haven't won two in a row yet, either. That's next on the list.

The good news is that after Cincinnati, the Steelers can attack that next challenge with a little less apprehension and a little more swagger. Larry Foote let some of that slip when asked if he had watched any of Houston's blasting of Baltimore.

"I saw a little bit of it," Foote said. "I went to sleep."

He had no other thoughts on the Ravens right about then.

"I said I went to sleep," Foote continued. "I went to sleep for a reason."

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