There was a little more pep in their step following the Steelers' 20-12 win Sunday at Heinz Field over Kansas City.
But don't mistake this team's happiness over earning its first playoff spot since 2011 for complacency.
"It feels great," said linebacker Vince Williams of the playoff berth. "I really want to get a T-shirt and a hat next week. That’s what I’m focused on. I want to go ahead and take care of the North. I don’t want to be wobbling on in there. I want to kick the door down."
Why not? The Steelers have already handled the Bengals in Cincinnati. They've won seven of their past nine games since an embarrassing loss at Cleveland back in October. They have been singularly focused on the task at hand.
And the task this week is getting another win that will give this team its first home playoff game since 2010 - yes, it's been that long.
Then there is this: "We don’t want to be complacent with three wins in a row," said defensive end Cam Heyward. "We want to get greedy. We want this division. We want to go into the playoffs not having lost a game in a while."
@ Looking around the rest of the conference, the Steelers just might be the team that's putting it all together at the right time.
Following that 35-32 loss a month ago to New Orleans, the Steelers have beaten Cincinnati, Atlanta and now Kansas City in what were essentially playoff-type games. They've held those teams to 21, 20 and 12 points.
Sunday, they shut down Kansas City's Jamaal Charles, limiting him to 29 yards on nine carries and held the Chiefs out of the end zone on four red zone trips. That might not sound like a big deal, but Kansas City entered this game second in the NFL in red zone offensive efficiency, converting 67.5 percent of the time.
"That’s a good day," said linebacker Jason Worilds of the defensive performance, which included a season-high six sacks. "That’s kind of the vision that we had initially. It’s something that we strived for. We’ve done exactly what we’ve said we would do, which is get better."
@ James Harrison returned in this one and beat Chiefs left tackle Eric Fisher - the top pick in last year's draft - so badly and so often that he's fortunate the police weren't waiting to put him in cuffs after the game.
"He was amazing," said Williams. "That guy’s ageless and timeless."
Harrison had seven tackles, 1.5 sacks, two tackles for a loss and two other QB hits in this game. Not to be outdone, Worilds had a pair of sacks, two stops for a loss and two QB hits of his own. And Heyward had four tackles, 1.5 sacks, 3 QB hits and a tackle for a loss.
That's having your big players step up at the right time.
@ It's not coincidence, by the way, that the Steelers have played better defensively in recent weeks after inserting rookie Stephon Tuitt into the lineup. Tuitt had his first career sack Sunday and also forced a huge fumble that was a game-changer.
Charles caught a short pass and Tuitt came storming down on him like the wrath of God.
"That was just a hustle play," Tuitt said. "We worked all week in practice to run to the ball. That’s what happens when you do what you do in practice."
@ Coupled with Indianapolis' loss at Dallas, the Steelers can now clinch the No. 3 seed in the AFC playoffs with a win over the Bengals next Sunday. That would help them avoid a second-round meeting with New England, which is playing better than current No. 2 seed Denver right now.
And if Cincinnati were to somehow upset Denver tonight, the No. 2 seed in the AFC could be in play. Hey, stranger things haven happened, such as Baltimore - which supposedly never loses to bad teams - losing at Houston against a fourth-string QB Sunday.
@ Even though the Steelers scored "only" 20 points, I thought Todd Haley called a masterful game. The quick passes off fakes to tight end Heath Miller were something to which the Chiefs never adjusted.
Miller finished with seven catches for 68 yards. It doesn't sound like a lot until you realize that Kansas City entered the game having allowed an NFL-low 43 receptions by opposing tight ends this season.