Following a three-day mini-bye, after winning two games in five days, and after a rare Monday morning practice, the Steelers locker room was understandably giddy.
Surely, fun is allowed every now and then.
"It was awesome, man," Sean Davis said of the time off. "Two games in five days was brutal. It was hard, man. The body was just tired, not feeling right. I'm not kidding. I was in a routine and I kind of got off my schedule and the body felt weird. It was something we had to do, but man the off weekend was awesome. Got to eat good. Now we're back on track."
Davis was in a particularly good mood since he's playing well at the position -- strong safety -- he was born to play.
"Right. Finally. It feels good to be back there," he said. "I'm just working every day. I've still got a lot to prove, a lot I can get better at, but I like my progress, coach likes my progress, so we're going in the right direction."
Has the rookie noticed any type of wall as the season rounds the bend into December?
"Nah, not right now," Davis said. "I had such a bumpy road, I've been eager to get back out there, so nah I haven't hit it. I just want to keep playing ball, keep winning games."
* Another rookie who isn't even considering a rookie wall is a guy who feels he could be called up to the active roster any day now.
"The way things are looking probably either this week or soon," said wide receiver Demarcus Ayers. "I've just been getting a lot of feedback the last couple of weeks. They had me running behind some guys. When Eli (Rogers) isn't in I'm running F (slot) and when AB's not in I'm running X (split end). Todd Haley just told me to stay ready, keep learning, that they're going to push me in at some point. I just don't know when. Probably got to figure out what's going to happen with Hey-Bey, if he's coming back soon or not. But the arrow is pointing up."
Ayers was the team's 7-A draft pick and would become the fifth draft pick on the roster. The two picks not on the roster are still with the team: Travis Feeney is working every day on the practice squad and Jerald Hawkins is on injured reserve but in and out of the locker room.
Ayers confirmed that he spent a considerable amount of Monday's practice running routes with the first team. He said he's been making steady progress since playing through an ankle injury in training camp.
"My whole thing was just trying to get healthy," he said. "Now that I'm back healthy I guess they're seeing how well I'm practicing and how good I'm coming along. The whole 13 weeks have been a learning process for me but it's time for me to get healthy and keep learning as much as I can. I like where I'm at and I like where I'm going, progression wise, and I've been getting some good feedback from coaches, Ben, everyone, so I feel like my time is coming, if not this week then pretty soon."
* Ladarius Green said he didn't even think about the ball that hung up over him, which he ran under for a 32-yard catch on third-and-13.
"It just felt normal," said Green. "I wasn't even thinking about it, and that's probably what was good, that I wasn't thinking about it."
The big tight end had his largest workload at Indianapolis and his best production since coming off the PUP list three games ago. He played 14 snaps (26 percent) and caught two passes for 67 yards.
Five days earlier against the Browns, Green played 8 snaps (12 percent) and didn't catch a pass. Against the Cowboys he played 12 snaps (16 percent) and caught three passes for 30 yards.
Is his ankle, and therefore his speed, back to normal?
"No," Green said. "I know I've still got to work. I've still got some ways to go."
* Maurkice Pouncey said he couldn't talk Monday "because I don't have a commercial like Al."
It was Pouncey's way of trying to get his neighbor in the locker room, Alejandro Villanueva, riled up.
And Big Al does have a pretty good USAA spot.
"I know but I'm tired of seeing it," said Pouncey.
But, I reminded Pouncey, Al's going to be a billionaire one day.
"Yes," said Al.
And, Pounce, you're going to be working for him.
"YEEESSSSSS!" exclaimed Al.
"And his son's going to wear 53," said Pouncey, who wears No. 53.
"And my son's going to wear 53!" said Villanueva as the two broke into laughter.
I asked Al how old his son is.
"It don't matter," he said.
"He's been telling me this (stuff) since before his son was even born," said Pouncey.
Will the young man wear No. 53 out of respect to Pouncey?
"Nooooo," said Al. "The opposite. I want Pouncey when he's old and hurting to look at 53 and say, 'Aw, man, that's what I wanted to be able to do.'"
"Honestly, that is what I'm going to say," Pouncey said. "If his kid's starting here, we're all messed up."
"Even if my son plays wide receiver, it doesn't matter: 53. He'll have to report every single play," said Villanueva as the two broke into laughter again.
* Villanueva left and Pouncey turned serious and complimented the left tackle by saying he did a great job blocking Robert Mathis.
"They're playing great. They deserve that," Pouncey said. "Ramon's playing really, really well. He's locking guys down. But he does every year. He's a consistent player who plays really well. That's why he's played in the league this long."
Did Pouncey remember the 12-yard run by Le'Veon Bell around right end during which Gilbert turned Lavar Edwards, knocked Edwin Jackson to the ground and farther downfield pushed D'Qwell Jackson five yards back?
"Yeah I remember," Pouncey said. "It was kind of a draw play. He did a really good job. He threw 53 on his ass and then he got up on the safety. We just watched it. Gilbert's back right. He had a few weeks off to get (the ankle) right and now he looks great."
Pouncey said the entire line is "playing great together, looking like it should look," and that even line coach Mike Munchak is happy.
"But he's still a coach at the same time," Pouncey said. "Never totally happy. But it's good, man. It's good for the unit, getting recognition like that."
* Defensive lineman L.T. Walton received a concerned call after the game from his mother.
She watched the game and told her son, "You can't be knockin' out James!"
Walton laughed. He had slapped James Harrison on the helmet after a first-quarter sack, and it appeared to knock Harrison woozy. The officials forced Harrison to the sideline to get checked.
"I think he already had that," Walton said. "I was trying to celebrate with him. I think he was already a little woozy."
Walton said that his mom explained how the sequence looked on TV.
"All you could see was me celebrating with him," Walton said. "Tuitt hit him, then I hit him. Maybe we both did it (laughs). But he's good."
What did Harrison say?
"He said 'Damn (guys), y'all can't hit me when I'm on the ground. I gotta get outta here.'"
* The Ohio State-Michigan game and its consequences were a big topic in the locker room Monday. Here's how Ohio State alum Cam Heyward saw things:
"It was a first down," he said of the much-discussed fourth-down spot that was ruled a first down in overtime for Ohio State. One play later, the Buckeyes won the game.
"I had a clear view," Heyward said. "He was at the line. It looked crazy because he got kicked back."
I told Heyward that the defensive hit was so impressive I would've been inclined to rule it short of the stick.
"It was a great defensive play," Heyward said. "But you couldn't end the game like that. All he had to do was touch the line. I saw it clear cut."
What about Jim Harbaugh's antics? Did the Michigan coach deserve the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty?
"Oh, he was going nuts. I don't know what he was saying but he was going crazy. He threw his headset but he kept running out of the box and they kept telling him to go back and he kept doing it over and over."
So, Ohio State goes from second place in its division to the second seed in the national playoffs? Is that fair?
"I don't know," Heyward said. "I think that almost makes the conference look a little crazy when they can't match it up with the college playoffs."
Will this cause an expansion of the college playoff field to eight teams?
"Eight or six," he said. "If you do eight, it's almost going to water it down."
Heyward, of course, is out for the rest of the season with a torn pectoral muscle. Will the reported six-month recovery period dig too deeply into his weightlifting regimen?
"Four months," Heyward corrected. "They said four to six months, and I'll get it down to four. It shouldn't affect me. I'm going to make sure I take care of this (points to scars), yessir."
* It's that time of year to ask the players whether they watch the scoreboard involving teams in their race.
"Nah," said Arthur Moats. "As long as we're winning our games, we'll be fine."
But is Moats watching the race for the team sacks lead? It's changed leaders three times in the last two games.
After the Dallas game, Anthony Chickillo led the Steelers with 2.5 sacks over Harrison's 2.
After the Cleveland game, Tuitt had 3.5 over Harrison and Moats at 3.
But the league ruled a couple of days later that Tuitt and Moats shared one of Tuitt's 2.5 sacks in the Cleveland game, so Moats took over the lead with 3.5 over Tuitt and Harrison with 3.
Harrison had a sack at Indianapolis and now has the team lead with 4 over Moats with 3.5, Tuitt with 3 and Chickillo with 2.5.
Is Moats paying attention to that race?
"Not at all," he said. "As long as we're winning our games, that's all that matters."
It's an answer that can be used for all questions right now.null