"Whether we won or lost last week," Polamalu said, "I'd like to think we wouldn't have prepared or played any different this week. I would like to think that we have a sense of urgency no matter what the circumstances are. But it's kind of hard to speak in hypotheticals."
Because hypotheticals lack the urgency, or embarrassment, inspired by allowing 55 points and 610 yards in one game to one team.
That, of course is what the New England Patriots and Tom Brady hung on the Steelers the previous week. Against the Bills and rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel on Sunday, the Steelers allowed only 227 yards and 10 points -- and 87 of those yards and seven of those points came on the final drive.
Were the Steelers still playing with their urgency and enthusiasm with the game in hand?
"Yes," Cameron Heyward said with distinct emphasis. "We don't want to surrender anything, and I think they shouldn't have scored. I saw a false start, a fumble. We pride ourselves every day we work and we don't want to give up a single touchdown. Anybody's going to tell you that. We don't want them to score and we're going to keep improving on that and we want to play 60 minutes."
The Bills benefited from a couple of poor calls at the end to allow them to score their only touchdown. But the Steelers' defense played just as hard on that possession as it did on the first, when the Bills' Jairus Byrd returned an interception 57 yards to the Pittsburgh 29.
A pass interference penalty on William Gay -- on an uncatchable pass that was short of the sticks -- kept that first drive alive on an otherwise third-down incompletion, and a scramble by Manuel put the ball at the Pittsburgh 9. But the Steelers dug in and held the Bills to a short field goal to set the defensive tone for the day.
"Holding them to a field goal there our first series was big for us," said Brett Keisel. "That was big for our defense and our confidence and for the game."
The Steelers' run defense took it from there. Against the two-pronged attack of C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, the Steelers allowed only 95 yards, or 102 fewer than they had allowed in each of their previous two games.
It made the Bills one-dimensional, and with a rookie quarterback who had accuracy issues even in college, the Steelers had the big edge.
"Everybody was just doing their job, staying in their gap," said LaMarr Woodley. "Do your job, stay in your gap, and you get great results, and that's what we got today."
Jarvis Jones got the first sack of his career, Lawrence Timmons got the first sack of his season, and Heyward got a sack for the second consecutive game. Ryan Clark intercepted his second pass of the season.
It was all just a smattering of what can happen when the seven players up front each retains his gap responsibility -- even rookie linebackers.
Are the rookies getting it?
"Yeah," said Keisel. "Everyone I think is getting it. Everyone is understanding what they need to do, what their responsibility is. A lot of it has been mental errors and things like that, and not just with the rookies. Some of us, too. If we all just do our responsibility we can be tough."
Keisel says there's still time to turn the season around and end not only respectably, but satisfactorily.
"I think when you get punched in the mouth and you get embarrassed like we did, you want to come back and have a performance like this to move forward," Keisel said. "There is still football left to be played. If we play like this, we can be tough."