It's so distasteful to some Steelers, rooting for the Cleveland Browns.
That goes too far, even for a rookie center.
"We're not really paying attention to that," said Maurkice Pouncey "We're not going to put our season in somebody else's hands. We have to worry about what we got to do and finish out the season strong."
That's the thing about the game Sunday between the Baltimore Ravens and Browns in Cleveland. Should the Ravens lose, the Steelers will not have to worry about what they must do; the regular season essentially will be a wrap. A Ravens loss would give the Steelers the AFC North Division championship, the No. 2 seed in the conference and the first-round playoff bye that goes with it.
They would not play another meaningful game until the weekend of Jan. 15-16.
"It would be nice, man, but we have to worry about us," Pouncey said. "We can't depend on Baltimore to lose a game."
The Steelers 27-3 victory Thursday night against Carolina at Heinz Field assured them that they will earn the No. 2 seed if Baltimore loses one of its final two games, or the Steelers win their finale Jan. 2 in Cleveland.
"We have a lot of key guys banged up," said cornerback Bryant McFadden, who left the game briefly Thursday night with a hip bruise after he intercepted a Jimmy Clausen pass.
"That gives us an extra week of just practicing and you don't have to worry about going into a four-quarter ballgame on that Sunday and you get a chance to get guys feeling a lot better for the next week."
If the Ravens lose tomorrow, the Steelers can enter their game against the Browns knowing it means little. They could rest and/or protect some of their starters. Injured players such as Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu could not only use the time off but avoid potentially more injuries or reinjury.
Older players such as James Farrior, Flozell Adams, Hines Ward, Casey Hampton and Brett Keisel also could be rested or used sparingly Jan. 2.
"I'm rooting for Cleveland," said Farrior, who, at 35, has a different perspective than the 21-year-old Pouncey. "I'm a Cleveland fan this weekend -- just for this weekend."
Surprisingly, many of his teammates alleged they did not care much what the Browns do tomorrow.
"Who do they play?" Heath Miller asked. Told the Ravens and that the Steelers would lock up the No. 2 seed with a Cleveland victory, Miller shrugged.
"That would be nice, but we're not going to expect anything. We have to take care of business on our end. That Cleveland game is important to us no matter what because we went to continue to improve heading into the playoffs, so it's an important game for us."
That raises the question of whether coach Mike Tomlin would rest anyone in Cleveland even if the bye were secured before Jan. 2. The last time such a scenario unfolded, Tomlin started Roethlisberger in the meaningless 2008 regular-season finale against Cleveland, and the quarterback was carted off Heinz Field on a stretcher.
"Mike's going to make us go out there and play anyway," said Hampton. "It would be different if he was going to rest us the last game if we had it clinched, but we had it clinched before and he made us play, so I wouldn't expect anything different.
"The head man, there's a method behind his madness. Whatever he says we have to go out there and do we go out and do, it don't matter. We support him, we'll go out and get it done."
Roethlisberger, who had his broken nose mashed again Thursday night, might prefer not to play Jan. 2 if the Steelers have the bye wrapped up by then. His broken right foot also is on the mend.
"It is coach's call," said Roethlisberger. "I'm fine with it either way. If he wants me to be in there, and us to be in there, I'm good with that. If he wants to back off and get rest, I'm fine with that as well."
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