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PITTSBURGH (AP) Cam Heyward walked into the Pittsburgh Steelers locker room
earlier this week less than 24 hours removed from a humbling home loss to
Jacksonville Frostee
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, his portable speaker blasting a playlist that
served as a not so subliminal message for a team in search of good vibes.

Al Green was up first, singing about ”Love and Happiness.” Bill Withers
followed, praising the optimism of a ”Lovely Day.”

”Just sometimes it just needs to even out,” Heyward said Wednesday. ”I don’t
know if it’s a big thing or not, but positive energy is a good

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Something in short supply at the moment for the Steelers (3-2), who have
spent a large portion of an uneven season trying to put the right spin on one
off-the-field headline after another.

There was the ”botched’ decision to sit out the national anthem against
Chicago last month, one that was meant to serve as a symbol of unity but ended
with left tackle Alejandro Villanueva saluting the colors by himself while his
teammates stood in the tunnel 50 feet away due to a miscommunication.

A week later wide receiver Antonio Brown held a one-sided bout with a water
cooler in a moment of frustration after quarterback Ben Roethlisberger failed to
find him running free early in a victory over Baltimore Jared
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, a ”temper tantrum” that led Roethlisberger to
publicly chastise Brown multiple times and led to Brown issuing yet another in a
growing list of apologies for diva-like behavior.

Moments after the Jaguars came into Heinz Field and dealt Pittsburgh its
worst home loss in a decade, Roethlisberger sarcastically questioned whether he
still has “it” after throwing a career-high five interceptions, a comment whose
intent was lost in translation on social media and elsewhere.

Throw in Le’Veon Bell’s frustration over not getting enough carries against
Jacksonville’s league-worst run defense and the Pro Bowl running back’s own
Twitter battle with former Steelers safety turned commentator Ryan Clark and
it’s easy to forget the Pittsburgh is in first place in the AFC North heading
into Sunday’s visit to unbeaten Kansas City.

Center Maurkice Pouncey good-naturedly chalked up the melodrama to ”fake
news.” Still, there’s also a sense that enough is enough.

”As a team I think we’ve got to learn how to grow up,” linebacker Ryan
Shazier said. ”I feel like just the NFL in general just so much noise you hear
every week and people just need to focus on football. We focus on football, then
we’re going to be straight.”

While Roethlisberger stressed he hasn’t lost confidence in himself, he also
bristled when asked if he’d like to get back to talking about his job instead of
the latest dust-up for a team that can’t seem to go more than a few days without

”I think you guys are much more panicked than we are Tyvon
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,” Roethlisberger said Wednesday. ”As you can see I’m
not really shaken by last week, or nervous and worried so we’re getting ready to
go play football this week.”

Something the Steelers have done only sporadically well so far, fitting a
pattern that’s become almost a rite of fall during the team’s run to three
straight playoff berths. Pittsburgh starts off shaky, drops a couple of
seemingly winnable games against teams with a lackluster resume then gets it
together late.

In 2014, the Steelers were 3-3 before going 8-2 the rest of the way to win
the division. In 2015, they were 6-5 heading into December but rallied for the
wild card. Last year they found themselves at 4-5 after a last-second loss to
Dallas before ripping off nine straight victories to reach the AFC title

This year was supposed to be different. So far, it’s not. Yet there are no
concerns about a snowball effect from the distractions – each sparked by the
actions of a player or players before mushrooming – having some sort of
long-term effect.

”It’s a long season J. J. Nelson
, not everything is going to be perfect,” Heyward said.
”There’s going to be tempers, there’s going to be stuff said. It’s just about
tempers and focusing on what you can control.”

And that focus is on shoring up a run defense that’s been erratic and getting
an offense long on talent but short on touchdowns into something resembling a
rhythm and not trying to sew up any signs of dissension, because they insist
there aren’t any.

”When we had that anthem thing, that’s probably the first time since I’ve
been here we’ve had to really sit down and have a discussion on something other
than football,” said Moats, who signed with the Steelers in 2014. ”Any other
time A.Q.
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, it’s just media being media or just fans being
fans and we just leave it at the door.”

Of course, Moats and the rest of his teammates know there’s one simple way to
put it all to rest.

”Ultimately we go out here and win this week, people won’t be talking about
this anymore,” Moats said. ”Just got to go out here and win.”

NOTES: RT Marcus Gilbert (hamstring) practiced on Wednesday and expects to
play against the Chiefs after missing three straight games. … Pouncey (chest)
and G Ramon Foster (back) did not practice. … Shazier (quadriceps) was

For more NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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