STEELERS – TUESDAY
Ben to Play?: Indications yesterday from team sources was that the coaching staff intends to play Ben Roethlisberger Sunday afternoon vs the Cleveland Browns and head coach Mike Tomlin hinted at that today. Tomlin said that Ben has a “shot” to play and indicated that if guys like Roethlisberger, LaMarr Woodley, Maurkice Pouncey and Emmanuel Sanders are healthy enough to play, “they will play”. Tomlin said today he expects Pouncey to practice on Wednesday.
Legursky, Moore not expected to play: The Steelers are expected to remain cautious with Mewelde Moore (knee sprain) and Tomlin said that Moore is on the outside looking in at this point. Like Moore, Doug Legursky is also expected to sit out due to a shoulder injury. Tomlin said that Legursky is a week out. He should be ready to play next week if the Steelers are in the wildcard round.
Essex earns high praise: Tomlin again today gave high praise to Trai Essex who stepped into the center position against the Rams. “Trai’s ability to play center was pivotal to our success, ” Tomlin said. “Special afternoon for him”.
Tomlin won’t commit to Gilbert: Rookie Marcus Gilbert was late for a meeting last week which led to his benching. Tomlin today wouldn’t commit to Gilbert but look for Gilbert to be back at his starting right tackle spot on Sunday.
*The Steelers and Ravens both having their games moved to 4:15 doesn’t do much for the Steelers as the 1:00 p.m. games won’t impact whether the Bengals dress or sit players. Cincinnati has to win to earn the No. 6 seed and the Bengals will have a healthy A.J. Green this time around against the Ravens in what’s going to be a very difficult game for Baltimore as a lot is on the line for both teams.
*The Steelers giving up a 100 yard game to Steven Jackson has been alarming to some that the Steelers run stopping woes are showing up again at the wrong time but the bigger concern especially in the playoffs has been the lack of pressure the Steelers are getting to the quarterback.
*Rashard Mendenhall is showing signs of hitting his stride going into the stretch run and is back at a 4 yards per carry average. “I think we have run the ball effectively in the second half of the season, ” Tomlin said. Tomlin hasn’t been pleased with situational play such as on the goal line but Tomlin has been encouraged overall. “Largely, raw numbers I haven’t been displeased, ” Tomlin said.
*Playing LaMarr Woodley in the season finale makes little sense but coaching staff seems to want to get him some work if he’s healthy enough on Sunday.
Lure of coaching Rivers could draw Cowher to San Diego
There are two potential head coaching vacancy’s former Steelers head coach Bill Cowher is expected to consider this off-season: The San Diego Chargers who will fire Norv Turner and the New York Giants, the job Cowher has long coveted. However, only one of them (San Diego) is expected to be open as ESPN reports that Tom Coughlin is safe.
San Diego is very enticing to Cowher because the pieces are in place where they could contend immediately and most importantly they have a franchise quarterback in Philip Rivers, a player Cowher coveted extremely hard in the 2004 draft. In fact, Cowher had no interest in selecting Roethlisberger when Rivers went off the board as Cowher was prepared to select offensive lineman Shawn Andrews with the No. 11 selection. Thankfully, Dan Rooney stepped in and made the call to select Roethlisberger.
The obstacle for Cowher is GM A.J. Smith who some believe will have to be let go for Cowher to take the job. San Diego though is the most ideal spot for Cowher at this point if as expected, Coughlin is safe. The Miami Dolphins are also expected to go hard after Cowher but Cowher is not likely to give the job strong consideration.
Cowher last coached in 2006 and continues to indicate he won’t coach in 2012.
AFC Playoff Scenarios
1. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (12-3)
Week 17: vs Bills (6-9)
New England clinches home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs with:
1) NE win or tie
2) BAL loss or tie + PIT loss or tie
2. BALTIMORE RAVENS (11-4)
Week 17: @ Bengals (9-6)
Baltimore clinches AFC North Division and a first-round bye with:
1) BAL win
2) BAL tie + PIT loss or tie
3) PIT loss
Baltimore clinches home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs with:
1) BAL win + NE loss
3. Houston Texans (10-5)
Week 17: vs Titans (8-7)
Houston has locked up the No. 3 seed and can host the following teams in the Wildcard round:
Cincinnati Bengals, Tennessee Titans, Oakland Raiders, or New York Jets
4. Denver Broncos (8-7)
Week 17: vs Chiefs (6-9)
Denver clinches AFC West Division & No. 4 seed with:
1) DEN win
2) DEN tie + OAK loss or tie
3) OAK loss
5. PITTSBURGH STEELERS
Week 17: @ Browns (4-11)
Pittsburgh clinches AFC North Division and a first-round bye with:
1) PIT win + BAL loss or tie
2) PIT tie + BAL loss
Pittsburgh clinches home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs with:
1) PIT win + BAL loss or tie + NE loss
6. CINCINNATI BENGALS (9-6)
Week 17: vs Ravens (11-4)
Cincinnati clinches a wild-card spot (No. 6 seed) with:
1) CIN win or tie
2) NYJ loss or tie + OAK loss or tie
3) NYJ loss or tie + DEN loss or tie
In the Hunt
7. OAKLAND RAIDERS (8-7)
Week 17: vs Chargers (7-8)
Oakland clinches AFC West Division with:
1) OAK win + DEN loss or tie
2) OAK tie + DEN loss
Oakland clinches a wild-card spot with:
1) OAK win + CIN loss + TEN loss or tie
2) OAK win + CIN loss + NYJ win
8. TENNESSEE TITANS (8-7)
Week 17: @ Texans (10-5)
Tennessee clinches a wild card spot with:
1) TEN win + CIN loss + NYJ win + OAK loss or tie
2) TEN win + CIN loss + NYJ win + DEN loss or tie
3) TEN win + CIN loss + NYJ loss or tie + OAK win + DEN win
9. NEW YORK JETS (8-7)
Week 17: @ Dolphins (5-10)
Jets clinch a wild-card spot with:
1) NYJ win + CIN loss + TEN loss or tie + OAK loss or tie
2) NYJ win + CIN loss + TEN loss or tie + DEN loss or tie