View Full Version : Short week could bring long layoff for Steelers

12-22-2010, 04:05 PM
Short week could bring long layoff for Steelers
Published: Tuesday, December 21, 2010, 7:30 PM
The Associated Press By The Associated Press

The Pittsburgh Steelers are hoping a short week leads to a long layoff.

The Steelers (10-4) practiced Tuesday, normally their day off, during their lone day of on-field preparation before Thursday night’s game against the Carolina Panthers (2-12).

Normally, NFL players don’t welcome games that follow only three days of rest, especially after a game as physical and as tense as their 22-17 loss to the Jets was on Sunday.

“Some weeks, on Thursday, I don’t know how I’m going to play on Sunday,” safety Ryan Clark said Tuesday.

Still, the Steelers almost seem to welcome this game occurring this soon, and not just because it’s against an opponent that had won only once all season before beating Arizona on Sunday.

“I would’ve played this game Sunday night,” linebacker James Farrior said.

The payoff: The Steelers will have nine days off before their regular season-ending game at Cleveland (5-9) on Jan. 2. Then, if they’ve won the AFC North and are No. 2-seeded in the AFC playoffs, they’ll get an extra week off before their first playoff game.

All that extra rest could allow them to get safety Troy Polamalu (strained right Achilles’ tendon) and defensive end Aaron Smith (torn triceps) back for the postseason. Ben Roethlisberger’s broken nose should feel better — maybe he can discard the face shield — and perhaps his sore right foot won’t require him to wear a shoe that 1½ sizes larger than normal.

“We’re in a great position. We’ve clinched, which is good and we can have a first-round bye, which would be huge for this team — get some guys (healthy) who are banged up and rusty,” defensive end Brett Keisel said. “It’s all out there for us, we’ve just got to go take it.”

A week ago, the NFL-issued playoffs scenario for the Steelers required a mathematician to decipher. This week, now that they’ve clinched a playoff spot, it couldn’t be simpler. If they win and the Ravens (10-4) lose in Cleveland, the Steelers will win the AFC North and will own the No. 2 seed.

If they don’t win, or if the Ravens do, the division race goes down to the final weekend, when the Ravens are at home against Cincinnati (3-11).

While the Steelers can win the division merely by winning their last two games, the preferable scenario for them would be to clinch this weekend. Then, they wouldn’t have to play any not-quite-healthy players in Cleveland.

The Steelers proved five years ago, as did the Giants a couple of seasons later, that a sixth-seeded team can go on the road throughout the playoffs and still win the Super Bowl. But they’re the only two teams to accomplish it.

Wide receiver Hines Ward knows the much more likely route to Dallas is by gaining a first-round playoff bye.

“You’re two games away from the Super Bowl,” Ward said. “You let the other teams beat each other up in the first round. You know for sure you got one home game and you win that game, then you’re in the championship game and are one win away from the Super Bowl. That bye is important for any team in the league if you have an opportunity to get it. For us, that’s what we plan for.”

The Steelers won’t have Polamalu for a second successive game; he didn’t practice Tuesday, which means he won’t play. The Steelers would settle on having him ready to go next month.

Coach Mike Tomlin already has pulled a psychological ploy, suggesting it’s an advantage for a younger team such as the Panthers to play on a Thursday night following a short turnaround.

“Physically, they’re capable of bouncing back faster, no question, so we’ve got to prepare extremely smart and put our veteran outfit in the best position to play effective football,” Tomlin said.

His players’ reaction to this can’t-be-disguised attempt to motivate?

“The older guys, we don’t need motivation like that, we’re always self-motivated,” said Farrior, who turns 36 in two weeks. “So that’s not going to work for us old, old guys.”

12-22-2010, 04:34 PM
Panthers also have a short week...

12-22-2010, 07:53 PM
Panthers also have a short week...

And they are coming off a win so I suspect they will have a let down. After all it's not like they are used to winning.