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mesaSteeler
12-28-2011, 05:55 AM
Steelers coach Tomlin brings own approach

By Mark Kaboly
PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Mike Tomlin showed during the past three years that he isn't interested in resting players in a regular-season finale, regardless of whether playoff seeding had been locked up.

So with a chance of the Steelers climbing from the AFC's fifth seed to possibly the top seed and getting a first-round bye with a win at Cleveland on Sunday, Tomlin's approach isn't about to change. Even when it comes to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

"The guys who are deemed healthy to play will prepare and ultimately play for us this weekend," Tomlin said at his weekly news conference Tuesday.

Tomlin adopted that approach after resting key players like Roethlisberger, Troy Polamalu and Hines Ward in a meaningless Week 17 game at Baltimore in 2007. The Steelers lost to the Ravens, then lost the following week to Jacksonville at Heinz Field in a wild-card playoff game.

Tomlin has not rested his starters in a season finale since.

"There are some scenarios that can unfold that we can improve our playoff position. We are aware of that," Tomlin said. "We are also aware that all of those scenarios include us winning this football game."

Tomlin wouldn't say whether Roethlisberger will practice Wednesday after missing last week's game against the St. Louis Rams with a high-ankle sprain. But he said Charlie Batch's performance against the Rams 15 of 22 for 208 yards would not impact his decision.

A year ago, Tomlin rested Roethlisberger most of the second half against the Browns when the Week 17 game got out of hand. The Steelers needed to win to clinch the No. 2 seed, a first-round bye and the division title.

Tomlin hasn't ruled out that scenario for Sunday.

"Those are the easy decisions I can make as the game and situations unfold," Tomlin said.

In 2008, Roethlisberger again played in a meaningless season finale against the Browns, only to be carted off the field late in the first half with what later was diagnosed as a concussion.

The Steelers need to win and Baltimore lose to Cincinnati to secure a first-round bye. Add in a New England loss to Buffalo, and the Steelers would have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

"We have a big game this week," Tomlin said. "It is one that is necessary for us to win."

Mark Kaboly can be reached at mkaboly@dailynewsemail.com or 412-664-9161.

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