Playoff-tested Steelers eye Broncos

CLEVELAND – Next stop, Denver.

They don't know if they'll have safety Ryan Clark available due to a medical condition that potentially puts Clark at physical risk in exertion at altitude.

And Coach Mike Tomlin advised the media following Sunday's regular-season concluding, 13-9 victory over the Browns to anticipate that running back Rashard Mendenhall (knee) "won't be participating" against the Broncos. Preliminary reports indicated that Mendenhall's ACL was torn, and if that ends up being confirmed by an MRI, the Steelers figure to put him on injured reserve.

But beyond that the Steelers know the postseason, which for them begins at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 8, its challenges and what they'll be up against this coming weekend and beyond. And they're all in, even as a wild card.

"Any time you're in the postseason you're happy to be there," tight end Heath Miller said. "We have a good core group of guys who have been there before. We know what to expect.

"I think we'll be up to any challenge. I think it's a good group of guys. I'd go anywhere and play anybody with this group of guys."

The Steelers went all the way to Super Bowl XLV last postseason before eventually losing to Green Bay.

They captured the franchise's fifth Super Bowl championship at the conclusion of the 2005 season and Vince Lombardi trophy No. 6 following the 2008 campaign.

Offensive tackle Max Starks, who like Miller dates back to the Super Bowl XL championship team, appreciates what the playoffs demand from a team and the Steelers' collective ability to respond to such pressures.

"I think just having calm in chaos, because that's what it is in the second half when it's a tight game and you have must-win situations, I think we've developed into having an understanding for that calm," Starks said. "We've definitely been poised under pressure.

"We're not on the sidelines like 'Oh my God,' hoping something big happens."

As for what might be required in terms of approach and execution in the postseason, strong safety Troy Polamalu appreciated the way the Steelers concluded the regular season in an apparent state of playoff readiness.

"We won, which is the most important thing, obviously," Polamalu said following the Cleveland encounter. "It's good to have a win going into the playoffs. As Coach (Tomlin) said before, the team that probably has the best shot at winning the Super Bowl probably lost their last game a few weeks ago.

"This team hasn't been in (a postseason) yet. Each team has a different personality within itself. It'll be interesting how we do, the adversity that we face, how much we come together. We're going to have to play some really good ball. We have a tough road ahead of us, especially going to Denver.

"It's important to play good defense in the playoffs. I think what was really nice about (the Cleveland game) was we controlled the clock (the Steelers held possession for 39:11 to the Browns' 20:49), which is always important for us. The longer their defense stays on the field it's better for us."

Added nose tackle Casey Hampton, another postseason veteran, "Hey man, playoff football is a whole new season, a whole new challenge. We'll definitely be ready to go."

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