PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) — Don’t expect the stars to be out Sunday at Heinz Field.
With the top seed in the AFC Playoffs still up for grabs, the feel inside of the Steelers’ South Side practice facility Friday was that Pittsburgh may rest some key players when it welcomes winless Cleveland to Heinz Field.
New England, owners of a matching 12-3 record with the Steelers, own the head-to-head tiebreaker, meaning Pittsburgh would need a win over the Browns and the Jets to beat the Patriots in order to claim home field advantage in the postseason.
The odds of New York pulling off a sizable upset are quite low, so it appears that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and running back Le’Veon Bell will not play, as both were held out of practice Friday. Center Maurkice Pouncey and defensive end Cam Heyward, who both fully practiced, may be among those to have limited or no role when the ball is kicked off at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
“I can neither confirm nor deny,” said backup quarterback Landry Jones, tongue-in-cheek, when asked if he expects to play. “I got a couple reps today (with the first team offense).”
Pittsburgh could drive the final nail in the coffin for one of their oldest rivals, making Cleveland just the second team to ever go winless in a 16-game season.
“We’re not focused on the aspects of Cleveland, we’re focused on the aspects on our end,” said B.J. Finney, who would replace Pouncey should the two-time all-Pro rest Sunday. “I haven’t thought about that and to be honest I won’t think about that because that’s detracting from what we want to achieve and our goals.”
Bell currently sits third in the League in rushing, just 14 yards behind Los Angeles Rams back Todd Gurley. But it could be newly acquired Stevan Ridley that gets the bulk of the carries with Bell likely out.
“I got to play ball, man, I got to play ball,” Ridley said. “If it’s two or 20 (carries), whatever comes, I’ve got to be prepared and go out there and try to make the most out of it.”
Odds are that Ridley will not be alone in that mindset.