|Pittsburgh Steelers Team Report|
|Posted 12/27/2012 3:17 AM ET|
Even when the Steelers last did not make the playoffs, in 2009, there was a chance for them to do so entering their finale. When they knew they weren't going to make it in 2006 entering their final game, they had a chance to knock out the Bengals and they did so.
Not this year, because their opponent, the Cleveland Browns, also has little incentive. The Steelers say they will play to avoid having a losing season.
"Obviously the playoffs and Super Bowl are always our goal," said Ben Roethlisberger, who has never experienced a losing season since he joined the Steelers in 2004. "One of my goals coming in was to never be below .500. I know we want to try avoid a losing season at all costs.
"We want to finish strong. I want to finish strong. I'm going to go out there and give it my all. I'm not going to quit on this team or this franchise or the fans. They're going to get everything I've got and I think everyone in the locker room feels the same way."
Pittsburgh's last losing season came in 2003, when it went 6-10 under Bill Cowher. That finish led to the Steelers being able to draft Roethlisberger with the 11th pick in 2004. They went 15-1 with him as a rookie and went on to win three AFC championships and two Super Bowls.
He has been Superman in Pittsburgh, but his reputation has dipped the past two games when his interceptions led directly to victories for Dallas in overtime and Cincinnati with 14 seconds left.
"In the past, I've prided myself and our team in the fourth-quarter comebacks," Roethlisberger said. "We've always said you don't want to have them because then you're usually not doing so well early-on in the games. But we've always been good at it. This year just wasn't. I don't think there's a rhyme or reason why."
Two of his 29 winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime have come this season, but he's failed to lead them with chances in five other close games.
"I don't think there's any reason to go panic," Roethlisberger said. "I've been pretty good for eight years doing it. I had one not-so-good year at it. I felt like I played pretty good football though, other than those situations. There's not going to be any panic. I know that this offseason, when it gets here, will be a focus on really striving to get better."
His passer rating of 95.5 ranks third in the AFC behind Peyton Manning at 103.7 and Tom Brady at 98.3.
SERIES HISTORY: 120th regular-season meeting. Steelers lead series, 62-57. The Steelers lead the series in Pittsburgh 36-21, including eight straight at Heinz Field. The Steelers have won 16 of the past 18, 22 of the past 25 and 29 of the past 34. They also are 2-0 in the playoffs against Cleveland. However, the Browns beat them 20-14 in Cleveland on Nov. 25 when the Steelers had eight turnovers.
—NT Casey Hampton predicted that defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau would return for 2013, when he will be 76.
"I can't see why he would leave," Hampton said. "He said he'd tell us if he was and he hasn't said anything about it, so I can't see him leaving."
—Heath Miller will have surgery Wednesday on his right knee that was injured with two minutes left in Sunday's game. He left with a torn ACL, MCL and PCL. However, some believe damage was done on the last play of the first quarter when safety Reggie Nelson tackled him low.
"I'm not sure; it's hard to say," said Miller, who seemed to be agitated after that tackle and explained why. "It's never a comfortable position to be in. It's part of today's game based on the rules, I guess."
—In this century, the Steelers are 10-2 in the last game of the season.
—C Maurkice Pouncey and TE Heath Miller were named to the Pro Bowl, with Pouncey designated a starter.
BY THE NUMBERS: 72 — Starts the Steelers have lost to injuries this season, a number that will grow to at least 77 with five starters on injured reserve who will miss Sunday's game. The lost starts have come from 13 starters and a 14th will be added because Heath Miller went on injured reserve.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "That's not for me to say. I'm not making them so I'm not commenting on them." — NT Casey Hampton on what changes need to be made to the Steelers for 2013.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Steelers placed three players on injured reserve, ending their seasons with only their game against Cleveland at Heinz Field left to it: Ike Taylor, Heath Miller and Baron Batch. They signed tight end Jamie McCoy, safety Damon Cromartie-Smith and linebacker Marshall McFadden. The latter two had been on their practice squad and McCoy was released from their practice squad Nov. 22.
—QB Ben Roethlisberger can throw for a touchdown pass in all 13 games in which he has played this season if he has one Sunday. He has never done it in a previous season.
—RB Jonathan Dwyer, with 571 yards rushing, needs 40 yards or he will have the lowest rushing total to lead the Steelers since the 1970 NFL merger.
—LB Lawrence Timmons holds the team lead with three interceptions, one-third of the Steelers' total.
—TE David Paulson could get his fifth start in his rookie season but first as the No. 1 tight end because of a season-ending knee injury to Heath Miller.
—CB Keenan Lewis could miss his first game because of a knee that was injured in practice last week and had him hobbling on Sunday.
GAME PLAN: They'll try to run a lot on the Browns, move the clock and get home for New Year's Eve. On defense, they will go after the quarterback to try to get their sack numbers up.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Steelers LB James Harrison, tied for the team lead with a lowly five sacks, vs. Browns LT Joe Thomas.
Steelers CB Cortez Allen, who had two interceptions last Sunday, vs. Browns rookie WR Josh Gordon, averaging 16.7 yards per reception.
Browns RB Trent Richardson, if he plays, vs. Steelers No. 2-ranked NFL run defense — Richardson needs 50 yards to hit 1,000.
|Posted 12/27/2012 3:17 AM ET|