Players know show must go on

SAN FRANCISCO _ The Steelers were well aware of the opportunity they squandered against the 49ers, while also cognizant that there's still a lot of football yet to be played.

"The show goes on," Ryan Clark observed.

It goes on for the Steelers this week as the current No. 5 seed in the AFC Playoffs in the wake of Monday night's 20-3 loss.

When they first took the field at Candlestick Park last Monday evening, the Steelers had been the No. 1 seed in the conference by virtue of Houston's loss to Carolina on Sunday afternoon and Baltimore's loss at San Diego on Sunday night.

Falling to 10-4 on the season as a result of losing here dropped the Steelers behind the Ravens in the AFC North Division and positioned them ahead of only the New York Jets as an AFC Wild Card, at least for the time being. On the positive side, the Steelers are one of four AFC teams to have clinched a spot in these playoffs.

"It's not over," Clark said. "You still have to continue to play. We have to fight for playoff positioning, and we're in already."

The Steelers conclude their regular season schedule against St. Louis on Saturday at Heinz Field and then at Cleveland on Jan. 1. The Ravens, owners of a 2-0 head-to-head tiebreaking advantage over the Steelers, host Cleveland on Saturday and finish on Jan. 1 at Cincinnati.

Winning the division would guarantee the Steelers at least one home playoff game.

"Home-field, it's a help but it's not everything," wide receiver Mike Wallace said. "We can still go on the road and win. We can do that, too. We put ourselves in this situation, so we have to dig ourselves out. There's nobody to blame but ourselves."

Offensive tackle Max Starks, a holdover from the Steelers' Wild Card run to Super Bowl XL at the conclusion of the 2005 season, actually has gone on the road and won in the postseason, so he knows it's possible.

"It's important," Starks said of home-field advantage. "But in my experience it has been kind of either way. I've only been to the postseason twice healthy, done it both ways, so it doesn't matter to me. As long as we have an opportunity and as long as you're in the race you always have a shot.

"We still have more chances. We still have January in mind, but more rightly, we have a game coming up Saturday. We can't dwell on this."

Coach Mike Tomlin insisted after the loss in San Francisco his focus didn't and wouldn't extend beyond St. Louis.

"There's frustration because we didn't play winning football," against the 49ers, Tomlin said. "We came here to win a football game. We're a small-picture outfit. When you're winning you don't have to look around and big-picture analyze.

"Our mentality coming into this thing was to win this football game, and we didn't do that."

Added strong safety Troy Polamalu: "It's tough to look at the broad perspective when you have a big game like (San Francisco). It's a frustrating loss no matter what."

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