(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Even though the Steelers beat the Baltimore Ravens,19-14, on Wednesday, you wouldn't have known it by listening to Mike Tomlin, Ben Roethlisberger, JuJu Smith-Schuster and T.J. Watt after the game.
The locker room was down because they played a sloppy game, but the main reason for the gloom was that Bud Dupree suffered a significant knee injury late in the fourth quarter. It was confirmed the next morning that Dupree suffered an ACL tear and would be done for the season.
"The biggest thing was losing Bud (Dupree), that was the most deflating thing," David DeCastro said on Saturday in a Zoom interview with the media. "The game itself was, you could kind of feel it going into the week, you change the game, you change the time and there's all this leading up to it and they push it back again. And then the no-fans thing, too, sucks. It felt dead out there a little bit, playing on a Wednesday night, no fans. At the beginning of the season when there were no fans it was a whole new atmosphere, like, 'OK, we can get through this.' You still had that rush of the early season. Now, it's like you're in December, with no fans, you're like, 'What are we doing out here?' a little bit."
It's been a rough year for everyone in 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic has altered many things. It has been no different for DeCastro and his teammates.
"I don't like to make excuses, be professionals and stuff, but we're still humans," DeCastro said. "We have emotions and not having fans here, it's tough. And with (the Ravens) having guys out (on the reserve/COVID-19 list), too, there's a human-nature component where you play up and down to your level of play. Not to disrespect them, they still have good guys and they showed it. They played us well and we didn't play great. It'll be a big test this game (against Washington)."
The Steelers are 11-0 for the first time in franchise history. The 11 straight wins are the most consecutive wins in a season since 2004 when the Steelers' won 15 straight games leading up to the AFC Championship Game where they fell to the New England Patriots, 41-27.
"The record this year just kind of feels weird, this whole COVID year," DeCastro said. "I know we're 11-0 but in this day and age you don't really look too far ahead or behind, you're just kind of stuck in the moment. And that's kind of what it feels like this year. Maybe they shut the season off tomorrow, that's a real possibility nowadays. So you're just enjoying day-to-day life whether it's football, personal life. That's how I look at it. The record is what it is.
"We know, too, as an older guy, regardless of COVID or not, all that matters is when you're peaking and staying healthy. That's why it was tough to lose Bud, a guy like Bud, and you hate to see the injuries. This is the time where you have to make sure you're peaking and getting better. You can't be flattening out or going down."
Washington has five first-round draft picks on their defensive line -- Chase Young, Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, Montez Sweat, Tim Settle, and Ryan Kerrigan, who is a backup but has 5.5 sacks this year. Backup defensive tackle Tim Settle has five sacks as well. Washington also gives a five-man front look at times.
"Tremendous talent across the board. We've seen that kind of look, that structure before," DeCastro said. "The difference is the personality they bring behind it, they have tremendous players, one of the best groups we've faced all year. That's what makes it tough, not the structure but the players."
DeCastro and the offensive line will be tested against Washington's defense, who has 36 sacks this year, which is tied for second in the league. The Steelers' offensive line has allowed just 10 sacks this year, however, which is the fewest in the league. Roethlisberger hasn't been sacked in four straight games.