Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Stars Will Come out Again ... for Postseason Tomlin Uses a Number of Backups to Keep Starters Healthy for Playoffs, and Those Players Put on a Good Enough of a Performance to Keep the Browns Winless for Season

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Stars Will Come out Again ... for Postseason Tomlin Uses a Number of Backups to Keep Starters Healthy for Playoffs, and Those Players Put on a Good Enough of a Performance to Keep the Browns Winless for Season

Article excerpt

The Steelers scrambled to get to their New Year's Eve parties after surviving Cleveland, 28-24, but the champagne will stay on ice, and there was plenty of that to go around Sunday at Heinz Field.

It was ironic in a way that Mike Tomlin iced some of his best players for the finale against the Browns at Heinz Field because those inactive stars stayed among the warmest on the roster in the third-coldest game played in franchise history.

It was 11 degrees at kickoff and not suited up and sticking by the bench warmers were the healthy Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro and Cam Heyward.

The idea was simple: No. 1 seed New England was going to thrash the New York Jets anyway, so keep the boys healthy for a postseason that won't start for two more weeks. Better to be healthy and play the AFC championship on the road.

"I liked the position that we had," Tomlin said of the first-round bye that goes with the No. 2 playoff seed, already locked up the previous week. "I wanted to ensure some of those guys got to the second round of the playoffs."

That hadn't been the case for several postseasons lately, but they expect injured receiver Antonio Brown to rejoin them as well for their first playoff game, which would leave them only without Ryan Shazier, who took in his second game Sunday from a private box.

They hope the cold lingers as well because their ultimate destination is Minneapolis the first week of February, home to the Super Bowl, a place they have not visited in seven years.

Their 13-3 record tied for the best in the NFL, their best since 15-1 in 2004 and their third-most victories in a year filled with drama, heartache and just strange goings-on.

"There's been so much speculation on what we were supposed to do and we actually did it," Ramon Foster said. "Everybody's done their job collectively throughout the season to live up to what we thought we'd do."

The No. 2 seed has served them well in the past. They were No. 2 in each of their most recent Super Bowl visits in 2010 and 2008. They have not reached the Super Bowl as a No. 1 seed since their 1970s dynasty.

"I think it's perfect for us," Heyward said. "Nobody's expecting us because we're not No. …

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