'I just want to win the Super Bowl'

Posted Dec 28, 2017

Steelers weigh playoff readiness vs. playing time in finale.

They’ve been down this road previously, as recently as last season, but Mike Tomlin is still taking a wait-and-see approach as it relates to the division of labor for the upcoming regular-season finale against Cleveland.

“I’m undecided as I stand here right now,” the Steelers’ head coach maintained at the outset of this week’s preparation for the Browns. “It’s obvious that those discussions are in play. We will do what’s best for us, both long and short term, and we won’t look back.”

The scenario differs from last season in that the Steelers could still wind up with home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs this time around.

That would require not only the Steelers beating the Browns on Sunday at Heinz Field but also the New York Jets winning at New England.

The Patriots beat the Jets, 24-17, on Oct. 15 at MetLife Stadium, quarterback Tom Brady has an all-time record of 24-6 as a starter against the Jets and New England has won 12 of the last 14 in the series.

Last season, the Steelers were locked in as the AFC North Division winners and a first-round participant in the postseason when they hosted Cleveland on Jan. 1 to end the regular season.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Le’Veon Bell, center Maurkice Pouncey, wide receiver Antonio Brown and defensive end Stephon Tuitt weren’t active.

The starting quarterback was Landry Jones, the starting wide receivers were Cobi Hamilton and Demarcus Ayers and the starting center was B.J. Finney.

The Steelers beat the Browns, 27-24, on a 26-yard touchdown pass from Jones to Hamilton with 2:57 left in overtime.

Also at stake this time is the NFL rushing title.

Bell trails the Rams’ Todd Gurley by 14 yards (1,305-1,291; Kansas City’s Kareem Hunt is second at 1,292) with one regular-season game remaining.

“That would be huge but I don’t know if they’ll out him out there,” Pouncey said of Bell. “We’ll see how it goes.”

The passing and receiving titles are also still up for grabs.

Roethlisberger trails Brady by 123 yards (4,387-4,251) for the former and Brown leads Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins by 155 yards (1,533-1,378) for the latter.

Brown missed last Monday’s 34-6 win at Houston with a calf injury sustained on Dec. 17 against New England.

“I just want to win the Super Bowl,” Bell said. “I’m going to do whatever the coach asks me to do. If he tells me to play I’m going to go out there and play, if not I won’t.

Added Pouncey: “I don’t care, I’ll play the hole game. Football’s fun to me, it’s easy, that’s what I do.”

Tomlin must determine, at least initially, if the chance to pass the Pats for home-field advantage is worth exposing key contributors to the risk of injury against Cleveland.

The rest-vs.-rust equation, presumably, must also be debated given that all of the Steelers will be off the weekend of Jan. 6-7.

“The bye week’s awesome, really looking forward to that,” guard David DeCastro said. “You’re always worried about the bye week but at the same time we’re all professionals, old enough now to be able to take care of yourself and know what you need to do, even if you’re on the practice field, so not too worried.

“When I was a little younger it would have worried me but nowadays, I think most guys know how to do it.”

As for this week, it’s business as usual at the UMPC Rooney Sports Complex in advance of a game that doesn’t quite qualify as such.

“I‘ think Coach Tomlin does a great job keeping everything the same every week, which is nice,” DeCastro said. “You can get in that routine and you just kind of go. From that standpoint it’s felt pretty much the same.”