To Sean McVay, the National Football League season is like writing a novel.
“We have the ability to write our own story, and this is chapter nine,” the Rams coach said before his team departed Friday for Pittsburgh and the matchup Sunday with the Steelers. “We’re guaranteed 16 chapters.
“It’s up to us what those chapters will say.”
Like any good novel, there are plot twists, and characters coming and going.
McVay is certain the Stephen King horror part, with the three straight losses to Tampa Bay, Seattle and San Francisco, is now over.
The plot now thickens over the NFC wild-card playoff chase, where the Rams (5-3) trail the Seahawks (7-2) in the NFC West.
The Steelers have recovered from losing their first three games and falling to 1-4 with three straight victories.
Los Angeles isn’t the only one writing a playoff chapter Sunday.
“We don’t look for excuses for our present situation,” said Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, who only escaped defeat last Sunday when troubled Indianapolis kicker Adam Vinatieri scuffed a game-winning field goal. “Our job is to win football games, and early on we weren’t doing that.
“Our situation is what it is. We’ve been getting more traction in the last month, finding ways to get out of stadiums with wins. I’m sure the Rams are saying similar things.”
The Rams also have a new character in defensive back Jalen Ramsey. They’re 2-0 on the road with Ramsey in the lineup since he was traded by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The bye week after the London trip afforded Ramsey invaluable time to immerse himself in defensve coordinator Wade Phillips’ schemes.
“Man, is he a smart football player,” Phillips said. “He’s picked up our system instantly. He really controls the back end, and gives us great options up front.”
Because of Ramsey’s shutdown coverage skills and nose for the ball, Phillips has been able to bring more pressure than earlier in the season in wins at Atlanta and over Cincinnati in London.
Phillips wouldn’t say whether Ramsey will match up one-on-one with Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Pittsburgh, too, has dramatically strengthened its secondary with the acquisition of Minkah Fitzpatrick from Miami.
Fitzpatrick rang up his second pick-six as a Steeler with a 96-yard return against the Colts.
“The Steelers are going to test us physically; that’s what they do,” McVay said. “They need this game every bit as much as we do.”
It should be a great new chapter in the Rams-Steeelers rivalry.