On The Steelers: Scoreboard watching is back in vogue
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger could return Sunday against Cleveland after missing last game with a high ankle sprain, which he suffered against the Browns.
Share with others:
Forgive the Steelers if they look a little cockeyed Sunday in Cleveland, one eye on the Browns and the other on the scoreboard.
Under similar conditions in the past when playing at home, the Steelers would not show the score from the game between the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals on their scoreboard, but the Browns are in control, and, at 4-11, they have no ulterior motive.
The Steelers have clinched a wild-card spot but will earn a playoff bye and a week's rest -- especially for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger -- if they win in Cleveland and the Ravens lose in Cincinnati.
"Of course, I'm going to be rooting for it," linebacker Larry Foote said of a Cincinnati victory. "I know the Bengals are going to be fighting for the playoffs themselves. This will be a big game."
If the Bengals win, both wild-card teams in the AFC will come from the North Division. The Steelers hope the Ravens are the ones in that other wild-card spot.
The Steelers also know there are many different paths to the Super Bowl because they have followed them. They got there and won it as the sixth and last seed in the 2005 season, the first to do it. Although the New York Giants ('07) and Green Bay Packers ('10) have since followed that same path, the Steelers know which is the more direct and best route. The New England Patriots were the only other wild-card team to win all their playoff games on the road, in the 1985 season, but were trampled by the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XX.
- Game: Steelers vs. Browns.
- When: 4:15 p.m. Sunday.
- Where: Cleveland Browns Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio.
- TV, Radio: KDKA, WDVE-FM (102.5).
Other than '05, the Steelers made their other seven Super Bowl visits as division champs. The only way the fifth seed can have a home game would be if the sixth seed also won its first two games, putting the AFC championship in the fifth seed's city, which has never happened.
"Who knows," defensive end Brett Keisel said. "We're not really concerned about all that. We're concerned about winning games ourselves. We'll see what happens with the playoff picture, but we've got one game left and that's going to be our focus."
Keisel is one of 16 players on the 53-man roster who earned their first Super Bowl ring on that '05 team, and that will be an advantage if the Steelers must pursue their goal in the same manner.
"Sure, we've done it before," Keisel said. "We know it can be done. We're not the only team to have done it either. We're just trying to keep winning games and let the chips fall where they may."
Foote, who started next to Farrior at inside linebacker in '05, sees the difference between getting a seed and a bye and entering as a wild-card team as "the rest."
"Statistically, you want to play at home because the home team normally wins. You also get the free pass, especially with us being banged up right now with Ben and the other guys. It would be big for us but we did it before. Our goal is whatever it takes to get in the dance."
That other eye, though, has to be trained on the Browns, who caused the Steelers all kinds of problems before losing, 14-3, Dec. 8, a victory not secured until Antonio Brown caught a 79-yard touchdown pass with 2:52 left. Center Maurkice Pouncey and Roethlisberger both got high ankle sprains that day.
Roethlisberger could start Sunday in Cleveland, depending on how his ankle has healed over the past week. A Bengals victory will do the Steelers no good if they do not beat the Browns.
"We're all going to be pulling for the Bengals, but we have to win first," Foote said.
Guard/center Doug Legursky also might return to play after leaving Saturday's game with a shoulder injury. Coach Mike Tomlin said he could have returned to play against the Rams if needed.
As for his decision on Roethlisberger, Tomlin said, naturally, he will wait to see how his quarterback feels when he returns to work. The Steelers had Sunday and Monday off, and today is their usual off day, although many players often report for treatment of injuries and to watch video.
"We need to build off this win and hopefully get one next week and carry that into the dance," Keisel said. "Just finish the regular season strong. Cleveland's usually a tough place to play, so, hopefully, we can finish this season out right. They'll play us tough too; they always do."
Well, not always.
The Steelers are 22-4 against the Browns since they re-entered the NFL as an expansion team in 1999. The Steelers have won 15 of the past 16, with their only loss on a frigid day in 2009 in Cleveland that helped keep them out of the playoffs. Roethlisberger admitted in the days before the first meeting with the Browns this season that it was so cold in Cleveland two years ago that it bothered him mentally and he couldn't wait to get off the field and back to the warming benches on the sideline.
First Published December 27, 2011 12:00 am