Those unfamiliar with the Steelers probably thought that they were going into tank mode the second they dealt Chase Claypool before the trade deadline. The trade mimicked what many teams do when are in the Pittsburgh’s current predicament, as the 2-6 Steeles sit three full games out of the AFC’s final playoff spot. 

On Tuesday, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin initiated the uninitiated while making it abundantly clear that the Steelers’ goal, week in and week out, is to prepare to win the game that is next on their schedule. It’s all part of Tomlin’s favorite motto, “the standard is the standard,” which alludes to the Steelers’ constant quest to pursue victory, regardless of the situation and circumstance. 

“We’re singularly focused on this week’s opportunity, which is to win this game,” Tomlin said while adding that he is open to playing younger players moving forward “if it’s conducive” to helping the Steelers win. 

“That’s our sole agenda, is putting together a plan and highlight the skills of players that produce victory,” Tomlin said. 

The Steelers haven’t had a losing season since 2003, the season before Pittsburgh selected future two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Ben Roethlisberger with the 11th overall pick. The Steelers would own the fourth overall pick in the 2023 draft if the season ended today. Pittsburgh hasn’t had a pick that high since 1970, when they used the first overall pick to select Terry Bradshaw, the Hall of Fame quarterback and four-time Super Bowl champion. 

If the Steelers are still trying to win games, then why did they trade Claypool? Tomlin said that he and the Steelers coveted the second-round pick that was part of the deal. He added that he is comfortable with the Steelers’ ability to make plays in the middle of the field even without Claypool, who did most of his damage in the middle of the field during his eight games with the Steelers this fall. 

Tomlin specifically mentioned Pat Freiermuth as a player who has done plenty of damage over the middle this season. Tomlin is excited to see if Steven Sims — who also serves as Pittsburgh’s main special teams returner — can rise to the occasion as he will likely receive the majority of Claypool’s reps with the offense. 

While the Steelers aren’t changing their collective mindset, Tomlin acknowledged running back Jaylen Warren may continue to see his role in the offense increase during the second half of the season. The undrafted rookie, who earned a spot on the team’s initial 53-man roster following an impressive training camp, ran 29 times for a 5.3 yards-per-carry average during the season’s first eight games. 

“He’s a quality back this made some plays,” Tomlin said of Warren. “We’ll keep giving him an opportunity to do so. And maybe he’ll write that script [as a featured back].” 

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