View Full Version : Earning No. 2 seed has been super fortunate for Steelers

01-04-2011, 03:31 AM
On The Steelers: Earning No. 2 seed has been super fortunate for Steelers
Tuesday, January 04, 2011
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

With the bye week and a home playoff game Jan. 15, it looks like deja two for the Steelers. They have been here before with the No. 2 playoff seed in the AFC, and they did well with it.

They entered the 2008 playoffs as the No. 2 seed and won three in a row to claim their sixth Vince Lombardi Trophy.

They were the No. 2 seed in the 1995 playoffs and won two games to reach their fifth Super Bowl, where they lost to Dallas, 27-17.

On both occasions, they also caught a break by playing the AFC championship game at home when the top-seeded AFC team lost its first game -- Baltimore won at Tennessee in the playoffs after the 2008 season and Indianapolis won at top-seeded Kansas City in the 1995 playoffs.

They also were the No. 2 seed in 1997 and again caught some luck when top-seeded Kansas City lost its first playoff game but then the Steelers lost to Denver in the AFC championship game at Three Rivers Stadium.

This is the eighth time the Steelers have earned a bye as one of the top two seeds since 1992. If they advance to the AFC championship game, it would be their fifth in the past decade.

New England has been established as a prohibitive 2-1 favorite to win its fourth Super Bowl. The Steelers and Atlanta Falcons are second-favorites, each at 11-2 odds, according to Bodog.com.

"It's been like that every year for the Steelers," linebacker LaMarr Woodley said. "The year we won the Super Bowl it was the Titans. So they always count us out."

The Steelers will open against Indianapolis, Kansas City or Baltimore at 4:30 p.m. Jan. 15 at Heinz Field. They cannot play the New York Jets in that first game. The highest-seeded team to survive this weekend will play the Steelers, with the lowest seed playing at New England.

The Patriots and Steelers have met twice previously in the AFC championship game, both at Heinz Field after the 2001 and '04 seasons, and both won by New England.

"They're a great team," defensive end Brett Keisel said. "They've got a lot of weapons. We'll see how it all pans out. They've worked hard to get that No. 1 seed and they'll be a tough team to beat."

The Steelers, of course, also won a Super Bowl after the 2005 season when they were the first sixth seed to do so, winning three postseason games on the road and then beating Seattle in Detroit for their fifth NFL championship.

They say they appreciate this playoff spot a little more after what happened to them last season, when -- like this one -- they started out 6-2 as the defending champions and then collapsed, losing five in a row and missing the playoffs with a 9-7 record.

"It's great to bounce back after we had a year like we had last year when we went on that skid in the second half of the season," Keisel said. "It's great to finish strong in the second half of the season this year. We're proud to do that."

"Last year," Woodley said, "our fate was in other people's hands. We needed some teams to lose for us to get in, we put ourselves in that situation. This year we took control of our own situation."
Films snub

Steelers players apparently became so upset with all the fines that were levied on them, with the idea that the NFL had "targeted" them, that they refused to fully cooperate with the crews from NFL Films when they entered their locker room immediately after games.

Linebacker James Harrison, who had his $125,000 on four fines scaled back to $100,000 by the NFL last week, said the fines helped team unity in a locker room that has always been tight.

"I won't say that's what led to this team doing what it had done, but my teammates were definitely behind me," Harrison said. "We definitely stuck together. The NFL Films would be in here after games. That's another reason why we don't talk around them; we keep everything in team."

They had nothing against the crews from NFL Films, Harrison said, but explained the players' reluctance to cooperate because "they're just part of the NFL."

"I don't want to say nothing I might get fined for," Harrison said. "Just how they come into the locker room after the game, it's hush-hush, 'We got visitors in here, keep your comments to yourself.' "

Harrison said he also has a long memory for those media members in Pittsburgh who sided against him because of the fines.

"Some of you all tried to hang me out to dry, too, when this stuff was going on. I know who you are. Don't think I forgot."
Mendenhall top scorer

Rashard Mendenhall became the first running back to lead the Steelers in scoring since Franco Harris scored 66 points on 11 touchdowns in 1977. Mendenhall scored 78 points on 13 touchdowns, one touchdown short of Harris' team record. He's the second non-kicker to lead the team in scoring since 1977. Hines Ward led them with 78 points on 12 touchdown catches in 2002, the last season before this one in which the Steelers had two kickers.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11004/11 ... z1A38KNKl4 (http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11004/1115391-66.stm#ixzz1A38KNKl4)

01-04-2011, 03:33 AM
Harris: Steelers never tire of success
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 16457.html (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_716457.html)

Good day, Pittsburgh: Bet you didn't know the most underrated team in football plays in your backyard.

This year's 12-4 Steelers fooled us all. Fooled me. Fooled you. Fooled everybody but those 53 players, coaches, front-office staff and owners.

The running joke in the press box before Sunday's final regular-season game was concern about reporters being forced to spend the upcoming weekend in Kansas City if the Steelers somehow lost to Cleveland.

After disposing of the Browns with a dominating performance, the Steelers hoisted their second AFC North flag in three years.

Yes, the Steelers -- with their no-name defense whose starters are supposedly too old, and whose offensive linemen who supposedly can't block -- are the No. 2 seed in the AFC.

The geriatric Steelers lead the league in run defense and are second in total defense. And quarterback Ben Roethlisberger didn't get killed playing behind that offensive line.

"The only people that thought it was a problem, really, were (the media) and the fans," Roethlisberger scolded after the 41-9 blowout win over the Browns.

Coach Mike Tomlin is winning with a cast of star players the likes of which the NFL has rarely witnessed.

The Steelers continue to win with a core group of players who are two playoff wins removed from appearing in their third Super Bowl in six years.

In another city not spoiled by their team winning four Super Bowls during the 1970s, these Steelers wouldn't have been doubted two years after winning Super Bowl XLIII, and five years removed from winning Super Bowl XL.

They would have been described as a championship team catching its second wind.

Instead, these Steelers were considered too flawed, too injured and too old entering this season.

"The people of Pittsburgh are the best fans in the world," said former NFL executive Gil Brandt, who won two Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys. "I think sometimes they have to understand you can't be perfect at every position and have a continuation of success like they had (since) Roethlisberger came along."

Brandt, who contributes to NFL.com and whose opinions are heard regularly on the Sirius NFL Network, makes a valid point. The Steelers were able to draft Roethlisberger only because they finished 6-10 in 2003 -- their last season with a losing record. The Steelers have missed the playoffs twice in Roethlisberger's seven seasons.

In the two years they didn't qualify for the postseason, the Steelers were 8-8 in 2006 -- Bill Cowher's final season -- and 9-7 in 2009.

Putting last season in perspective, the Steelers shook up their coaching staff after not making the playoffs, while the New York Jets advanced to the AFC Championship Game despite finishing the regular season with an identical 9-7 record.

Nobody expects more from the Steelers than their own players.

"Do I like my team's chances now? I've been liking my team's chances all the time," said Mike Wallace, a confident second-year wide receiver who has gone on record as saying there isn't a defensive back in the league he can't beat one-on-one. "With the group of guys that we have, we go to work every day. We work hard every day. I don't see a day where anybody takes off from work."

The Steelers pride themselves in putting team goals ahead of individual glory. The front office purposely targets draft picks and free agents who excel in a team concept.

That's why you saw nose tackle Casey Hampton, defensive end Brett Keisel and cornerback Ike Taylor play selflessly this season so that inside linebackers Lawrence Timmons and James Farrior could rack up tackles, outside linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley could sack quarterbacks and safety Troy Polamalu could free-lance and make plays.

"You're never going to see us on 'Hard Knocks,' " said safety Ryan Clark, referring to the HBO show that featured the Jets before the start of the season. "We're not going to be the team that's seen. We have a team of football players.

"There's no TV stars here. We have one guy in here with a commercial (Polamalu), and that's just because he has nice hair. This organization is about winning championships."

Yes, it is.

And if the Steelers win another Super Bowl this season, or if they don't win it all but come close, don't complain or criticize. Appreciate the Steelers for what they've been for a long time:

About as good as it gets.

01-04-2011, 03:35 AM
Steelers take familiar path to playoffs
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 16464.html (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_716464.html)

Those who believe in omens may have taken note of the Steelers' final touchdown in Sunday's 41-9 shellacking of the Browns.

Antwaan Randle El tossed a 3-yard scoring pass to Hines Ward, marking the first time that the wide receivers have hooked up for a touchdown since Super Bowl XL.

If it a stretch to call that a sign, that's only because the Steelers don't need to cling to such superstition as they embark on a possible run to Super Bowl XLV.

The Steelers closed the regular season with two wins by a combined score of 68-12.

And they were more businesslike as they filed into the visiting locker room at Cleveland Browns Stadium on Sunday, precisely because they expected to lay waste to the Browns.

Those wins came shortly after inside linebacker and defensive captain James Farrior informed his teammates that the Steelers' postseason, contrary to what the NFL calendar says, started right before Christmas.

And they bode well for the Steelers as they try to extend their season through the first week of February.

The Steelers are 5-1 in regular-season finales in the years they have won the Super Bowl. In 2005 and 2008, they won their last regular-season game by an average of 22.5 points.

Coach Mike Tomlin shrugged off the importance of taking momentum into the playoffs after the Steelers punctuated a 12-4 regular season with a whipping of the Browns.

This came during yet another stone-faced, postgame address to the media -- and shortly after Steelers players heading into the locker room were greeted by Tomlin with shouts of "King of the North, baby!"

One thing that can't be dismissed or argued is that it certainly can't hurt to be playing well as December segues into January.

"You need to be peaking, playing your best football going into the playoffs, and I think we are," Steelers free safety Ryan Clark said. "I like everything about our team. We went through a stretch where were getting a lot of penalties, and we finally calmed that down and are playing smarter. We're playing well in all three phases."

The Steelers played their most complete game of the season in Cleveland, with the caveat being that it was, well, Cleveland.

But they enter the postseason on a track similar to 2008, when they also won six of their final seven games and claimed the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs.

"We've got a bye week, so things are in our favor right now," Farrior said. "We've got just as good a shot as anybody (to win the Super Bowl), and that's all you can ask for."

3 players to watch

Rashard Mendenhall, RB: Quietly had one of the better seasons by a running back in Steelers history, finishing seventh in the NFL in rushing yards (1,273) and tied for second in rushing touchdowns (13).

Mike Wallace, WR: He had three consecutive 100-yard receiving games to close the regular season and finished fifth in the NFL with 1,257 receiving yards.

LaMarr Woodley, OLB: Call him Mr. January. Or Mr. February. Woodley has notched two sacks in all four of the postseason games in which he has played.


3.0 - Yards per rush yielded by the Steelers, the lowest in team history dating to 1969

5 - Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's NFL regular-season rank in passing rating (97.0)

43 - Regular-season victories by coach Mike Tomlin, the same number his predecessor, Bill Cowher, had after four seasons

62.8 - Rushing yards per game allowed by the Steelers this season

90.1 - Rushing yards per game allowed by the Bears, who ranked second to the Steelers in the NFL this season


Steelers inside linebacker James Farrior, on the NFL fines that outside linebacker James Harrison incurred this season and how it brought the team closer together:

"We could have easily been distracted by that; James could have went in the tank. But he's such a good player, and he stayed focused and he stayed strong and resilient, and we fought through it. It seemed like things calmed down after a little while and that was just another thing that added to our character building."

Harrison, on the support he received when he got fined three times within roughly a six-week span:

"I won't say that's what led to this team doing what it has done, but my teammates were definitely behind me. We definitely stuck together."

Coach Mike Tomlin, on how the Steelers weathered ups and downs before and during the 2010 season

"It hasn't been an emotional roller-coaster. We knew what was in front of us, we knew the obstacles, we knew some of the adversity was created by us, but we'll meet it head on. We're still in the process of doing it."

3 questions with Steelers right tackle Flozell Adams:

Did you come close to retiring after the Cowboys released you last April?

"I wasn't thinking retirement at all. That wasn't an option for me. Whether I was going to be signed in May, June, July, August, September, I was willing to accept it."

How was it fitting in with this group of offensive linemen after spending your entire career in Dallas?

"Even though I'm a vet, I didn't know how to prepare myself to transition to another team. I'd never done that before, so it was kind of strange feeling. The first couple of days of (training) camp I didn't know anybody, but I have certainly been blessed that I've been a part of this group because it wasn't like, 'Who is this guy?' They welcomed me with open arms, and I totally appreciate that because I was nervous."

How meaningful would it be to return to Dallas and play in Super Bowl XLV?

"That's the ultimate goal to win the Super Bowl -- not just go; I want to win it. I don't care if it was in Europe, as long as I win the Super Bowl."

01-04-2011, 03:39 AM
Bires: For Steelers, best offense is good defense

By: Mike Bires
Beaver County Times
http://www.timesonline.com/sports/sport ... fense.html (http://www.timesonline.com/sports/sports_details/article/1501/2011/january/04/bires-for-steelers-best-offense-is-good-defense.html)
Tuesday January 4, 2011 12:10 AM

Cleveland quarterback Colt McCoy (12) is sacked by Steelers defensive end Ziggy Hood in the first quarter Sunday. AP photo by Mark Duncan)

PITTSBURGH — As the Steelers continue their pursuit of a return trip to the Super Bowl, they’re doing so with a defense just as stingy and relentless as their defensive unit from 2008.

You may recall what happened that season. The Steelers won the AFC North with a 12-4 record. They ranked No. 1 in total defense and scoring defense.

Linebacker James Harrison earned NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors.

And the Steelers went on to win Super Bowl XLIII.

Time will tell if the Steelers even make it to Super Bowl XLV in Dallas this season. But based on how well their defense is playing, no one should discount them.

Without a doubt, they possess the NFL’s best set of linebackers in James Harrison, Lawrence Timmons, James Farrior and LaMarr Woodley.

They have an exceptional defensive line even though Aaron Smith has missed the past 10 games with a torn triceps. Casey Hampton remains one of the league’s top nose tackles. Brett Keisel is having his best season as a pro at right end. Second-year pro Ziggy Hood is getting better each week at left end in place of Smith.

In the secondary, the only weak link is cornerback Bryant McFadden. But on the other side is Ike Taylor, who’s still a solid shutdown corner despite the fact he doesn’t intercept a lot of passes.

At free safety, Ryan Clark works well in tandem with the man who just might be this year’s NFL Defensive Player of the Year. That, of course, would be Troy Polamalu, the Steelers’ incomparable strong safety.

“He’s the guy who makes our defense whole,” Clark said.

Despite the fact he keeps making game-changing plays, Polamalu subscribes to the “whole is greater than the sum of its parts” theory.

“There are so many different parts that go into making plays,” he said. “It’s the pressure that makes the quarterback hesitant. It takes great coverage for somebody to get a sack. That’s why I say, especially on this defense that it takes 11 guys to make a play.”

And it doesn’t hurt to have a defensive genius like Dick LeBeau calling the plays as coordinator.

To be sure, whoever comes to Heinz Field on Jan. 15 for an AFC divisional round playoff game —be it the Colts, Chiefs or Ravens — they’ll have a hard time running the ball.

The Steelers finished regular-season play with the third-best rushing defense in the 45-year Super Bowl era. They’ve allowed a paltry 62.8 yards per game.

In their last 50 games, they’ve allowed only one running back to rush for 100 yards. They were the only team in the league this year to allow just one run longer than 20 yards.

And even though the secondary was scorched in losses to the Saints and Patriots earlier this season — Drew Brees and Tom Brady threw for 305 and 350 yards, respectively — the pass defense has improved since then.

The Steelers led the NFL with 48 sacks, and tied for fifth with 21 interceptions.

And since a 39-26 loss to the Patriots on Nov. 14, the Steelers’ defense did not allow more than one touchdown in any of their last seven games.

Who knows what will happen in the playoffs?

But at least the Steelers (12-4) are going into the Super Bowl tournament playing defense as well as any team still standing.

Mike Bires can be reached at mbires@timesonline.com

01-04-2011, 04:38 PM
As always FF, thanks for the great articles


Discipline of Steel
01-04-2011, 07:43 PM
Yeah, that kept me interested for a while. Thanx man!

01-05-2011, 01:33 AM
Plenty of work to do

By Teresa Varley - Steelers.com

The Steelers were back to work on Tuesday and without knowing who their opponent will be for the divisional playoff game on Jan. 15 (4:30 p.m. kickoff) the focus was on working on improving the little things.

“It was just keeping up with the chemistry, going over the base plays that we will run,” said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. “Little things like that and making sure we stay on our Ps and Qs.

“It’s Steelers-Steelers. It’s letting old men like Hines (Ward), James Farriorand Flozell (Adams) rest and get their legs back. Let guys get healthy. We don’t want to take an approach that we are off. It’s not an off week for us. It’s a week we still have to get better and focus on little things.”

In the past Steelers players remember using the bye week to prepare for potential opponents, but prefer using the week the way they are this year.

“What we are doing now is focusing on getting us better,” said safety Troy Polamalu. “We had a bye week in the past with Coach (Bill) Cowher and we did one day for each possible team, but I think I like this way better. It might have been Coach (Mike) Tomlin a few years ago. I don’t remember.”

Polamalu doesn’t plan on worrying about who the playoff opponent is – with the potential ones being Baltimore, Indianapolis or Kansas City – until Wild Card weekend reveals who it will be.

“I don’t know anything about the Chiefs,” said Polamalu. “We know the Indianapolis Colts given the history we have with them and the Ravens. I won’t be watching any games this weekend to find out what the Chiefs are about, but if we do play them I will know quite a bit about them.”

While Polamalu doesn’t plan on watching the games, Roethlisberger isn’t sure what he will be doing.

“I haven’t even thought about it,” said Roethlisberger.

* * *

Having a bye can work for or against a team, but you would be hard pressed to find anyone in the Steelers locker room who feels it’s a bad thing.

“It’s important,” said tight end Heath Miller. “I don’t think there is a guy in this locker room that would say he wouldn’t need it at this point in the year. We are glad we got it.”

The Steelers won Super Bowl XLIII while having a bye, but also won Super Bowl XL when they were a sixth seed without a week off.

“It probably depends if you have done it before,” said Roethlisberger. “If you have been there, what is your team like, how veteran a group is it, have they been in the playoffs or not. We have an older group, a veteran group so I think this is the best thing for us to let the guys get rest.”

* * *

The Steelers will be represented in the NFL Punt, Pass & Kick National Finals by Emily Riggs from Bridgeville, Pa. in the 8-9 year-old girl’s division. The competition is being held in Atlanta during the NFC Divisional Playoff weekend.


01-05-2011, 03:02 AM
On the Steelers: Roethlisberger makes strides in passing
Wednesday, January 05, 2011
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Ben Roethlisberger grimaced and leaned over to knock on his locker, which is made of wood.

This was no time to start jinxing the Steelers quarterback who has discovered the elixir that cures interceptions and sacks, even if inquiring minds wanted to know the secret to avoiding them.

"Maybe it's just lucky, maybe it's just not taking too many of the crazy chances I took before," Roethlisberger said. "But I don't feel I'm playing a different style of ball. Maybe I'm just making better throws."

His past 158 throws have not been intercepted and, of his 389 passes this season, only five were picked off. That is an interception rate of just 1.3 percent, the lowest of his career and the first time under two.

This, even though he played with two rookie receivers, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown, especially during the second half of the season when those two moved up to 3-4 behind Mike Wallace and Hines Ward.

Rookie receivers can kill a quarterback, but there only was one major, obvious error committed by them when Sanders did not recognize a hot route and thus broke up a pass intended for Hines Ward at a critical moment of their 20-10 loss at New Orleans. But then, veteran receiver Santonio Holmes cost them a game last season when he ran the wrong route and Roethlisberger was intercepted for a touchdown in a three-point loss at Cincinnati.

"You have to be a little more careful," Roethlisberger said about playing with rookies. "But those guys are good. You try not to put them in a situation to have to worry about it -- you know, those high balls and balls to the side, stuff like that; those are the ones that usually get tipped and picked. If you can try and put it on them, it usually eliminates that.

"Those guys are doing a good job of running the routes and doing the right things, so it makes it easier for me."

His sacks also are down this season, from 50 in 15 games last season (3.33 per game) to 32 in 12 games this season (2.67). That is a drop of nearly 20 percent, and, while Roethlisberger credits his line, there are other factors.

One, he has scrambled away from pressure more successfully this season. Roethlisberger ran 34 times for 176 yards, third most on the team. That is his second-highest rushing total of his career, exceeded only by his 204 in 2005. His 5.2-yard average per rush also is second only to his 5.8 of 2005. Last season, Roethlisberger ran 40 times for only 92 yards.

A second factor is his knack for getting rid of the ball more quickly. He acknowledges consciously trying to do that, and it especially seemed to work well the past two games.

"The line did a great job this week, especially picking up the blitzes and different things," Roethlisberger said. "But, if you get the ball out of your hands quick -- I took a couple of check-downs this week, and little things -- you get the ball to playmakers."

His coaches have noted in the past that many of Roethlisberger's sacks came not because of poor protection but because he holds the ball longer than most, trying to extend a play and find an open receiver.

"My style of play is to try to make a play, and that usually entails holding onto the ball," he said. "Sometimes, it works, sometimes it doesn't. Maybe this last game there weren't any real scramble pass plays. Maybe that's just the way the game worked out, that there wasn't any particular reason."

He finished with 3,200 yards passing, his fifth consecutive season over 3,000, extending his team record. His 97.0 passer rating was the fifth highest of his career and also represents the top five best in team history.
Quick hits

• Inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons ended inside linebacker James Farrior's long reign as the team's tackles leader. Timmons had 100 solo and 149 total. Farrior, who led the team the previous four seasons and six of the previous seven, finished second with 99 solo and 137 total.

• Receiver Mike Wallace led the NFL with seven 100-yard games. Although he did not make the Pro Bowl, his 1,257 yards were third in the AFC. His 21.0-yard average per catch led the AFC and his 10 touchdown catches tied for third in the AFC. He just missed becoming only the third receiver in NFL history to lead the league in average per receptions in his first two seasons after leading with 19.4 as a rookie. DeSean Jackson of Philadelphia averaged 22.5 yards.

• Hines Ward failed to lead the team in receptions for the first time since he led them with 61 catches in his second season in 1999. He finished one behind Wallace, 60-59.

• Troy Polamalu's seven interceptions ties for the most in the team's past 15 seasons. The other seven-interception season: Polamalu in 2007. His 27 career interceptions moved him into 10th place in team history. Mel Blount owns the record with 57.

• Five Steelers completed at least two passes this season, the first time that has occurred since the NFL merger in 1970: Roethlisberger, Charlie Batch, Dennis Dixon, Byron Leftwich and Antwaan Randle El.

• Defensive end Aaron Smith watched practice Tuesday, and it appears as if he will not return to play for the Steelers' Jan. 15 playoff game. Center Maurkice Pouncey, who left the game Sunday at Cleveland in the third quarter after getting hit on the head, practiced.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11005/11 ... z1A8rNRM10 (http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11005/1115570-66.stm#ixzz1A8rNRM10)

01-05-2011, 03:39 AM
I hope Flozzel gets that ring he's been chasing.. I like what he brings. :tt1

01-05-2011, 09:29 AM
Rashard Mendenhall, RB: Quietly had one of the better seasons by a running back in Steelers history, finishing seventh in the NFL in rushing yards (1,273) and tied for second in rushing touchdowns (13).

Mike Wallace, WR: He had three consecutive 100-yard receiving games to close the regular season and finished fifth in the NFL with 1,257 receiving yards.

5 - Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's NFL regular-season rank in passing rating (97.0)

.. and none of them was even a pro bowl alternate.

Center Maurkice Pouncey, who left the game Sunday at Cleveland in the third quarter after getting hit on the head, practiced.

That is great news.

"That's the ultimate goal to win the Super Bowl -- not just go; I want to win it. I don't care if it was in Europe, as long as I win the Super Bowl."

That is a great quote by Flozell.

01-06-2011, 08:00 AM
Steelers embrace bye week
Thursday, January 6, 2011
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 16814.html (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_716814.html)

Good bye or not?

Since the NFL went to its current divisional setup in 2002, five times a team not receiving a first-round bye advanced to the Super Bowl. Three won the championship

2003 - Carolina (NFC 3rd seed, lost to New England in SB XXXVIII)

2005 - Steelers (AFC 6th seed, beat Seattle in SB XL)

2006 - Indianapolis (AFC 3rd seed, beat Chicago in SB XLI)

2007 - N.Y. Giants (NFC 5th seed, beat New England in SB XLII)

2008 - Arizona (NFC 4th seed, lost to Steelers in SB XLIII)

For Ben Roethlisberger, it's a been-there, done-that situation.

Five years ago, the Steelers took the path of most resistance in claiming the Super Bowl XL title. The Steelers won three consecutive road playoff games before beating Seattle to claim their fifth world title.

Two years ago, they took the path of least resistance — a first-round bye and two home playoff games before winning Super Bowl XLIII.

"Either way is fine for me if you are winning Super Bowls," safety Troy Polamalu said.

The Steelers will try the easier path again this year with the AFC's No. 2 seed and a first-round bye. They will play Jan. 15 in the divisional round against Kansas City, Indianapolis or Baltimore.

"You get an easier path to the Super Bowl," Wide receiver Hines Ward said. "That is the reward for getting the bye week."

That may have been the case in the past, but recently it has proven that it doesn't make much difference if a team gets a bye. Without one, a team still has decent odds of advancing to the Super Bowl.

In four of the past five years, a team that played on wild-card weekend has advanced to the Super Bowl. Three times that team has won the Super Bowl.

That's a big contrast from the early days of the current NFL playoff format. When the league went to two first-round byes in each conference in 1990, 16 of the 18 teams not playing the opening weekend eventually advanced to the Super Bowl.

The Steelers have done it both ways.

"The first Super Bowl we won, it would've hurt us if we had a bye week because we were in such a rhythm and such a focus," Polamalu said. "The second time, it would've been irrelevant because we were playing so well."

The Steelers historically have played well in the divisional round after getting a first-round bye. They are 6-1 lifetime, winning six in a row since a 1992 loss to Buffalo, 24-3, in a divisional round game at Three Rivers Stadium.

"It probably depends on if you have done it before," Roethlisberger said. "If you have been there, is your team a veteran group, have they been to the playoffs, have they not? We have an older group, a veteran group, and I think this is the best thing for us to let some of those guys get rested and healthy."

The Steelers are approaching the bye week as a reward and a chance to get healthy. Mike Tomlin has given days off to veterans such as Flozell Adams, James Farrior, Ward and Polamalu.

"It's great to have a bye week," Ward said "To be able to get that chance of sit back and get guys healthy ... you can sit back and watch the other four teams beat up on each other."

That's exactly what the Steelers did two years ago when they were the No. 2 seed. The Steelers played Baltimore in the AFC Championship Game and took on a fatigued Ravens team that had played 17 consecutive games before the title game because of a scheduling conflict that forced a Week 2 game in Houston to be postponed, thus making it their bye week.

The Steelers won the AFC title game, 23-14, and claimed Super Bowl XLIII two weeks later.

"That made a whole difference," Polamalu said.