NFL roundup: Pittsburgh happy to have bye
PITTSBURGH ó The Pittsburgh Steelers are sitting where every NFL team wants to be this weekend ó at home with a short path to the Super Bowl awaiting them.
The problem: This is a road the Steelers frequently travel, but with little success.
This is the seventh time in 16 years the Steelers have been first- or second-seeded with a bye in the AFC playoffs, and not once has the bye translated into a Super Bowl victory. They’ve made the Super Bowl only once under such a scenario, losing to Dallas to end the 1995 season.
In 1992, they didn’t make it out of the divisional round as the AFC’s top-seeded team, losing 24-3 at home to Buffalo in former coach Bill Cowher’s first season. The next five times they were No. 1 or No. 2, they won their divisional game only to lose four AFC title games at home and one Super Bowl.
The memories remain painful for fans who can’t forget the twin defeats to New England in the AFC championship games during the 2001 and 2004 seasons.
The current Steelers’ reaction to all this ancient history? Means nothing.
“I don’t think there is an advantage in the bye week, mentally,” safety Troy Polamalu said. “Physically, there is. In hindsight, we can all say we got our butts kicked by New England (during the 2004 season) when we were 15-1. But if we didn’t have a bye week, who knows what would have happened? I don’t know and, right now, I’m happy we have it.”
CLEVELAND ó As the Cleveland Browns’ courtship with Scott Pioli continues, one of his closest football friends said it would be foolish for anyone to speculate about the New England executive’s plans.
Pioli, who has spent the past nine years helping build the Patriots into a powerhouse, met Wednesday with Browns owner Randy Lerner in New York about Cleveland’s vacancy at general manager. It is not known if Lerner, who also is conducting coaching interviews this week, offered Pioli the job.
Contradictory reports surfaced regarding the 37-year-old Pioli’s interest in the Browns, who went 4-12 this season and have lost at least 10 games in five of the past six seasons. Pioli may also interview with the Kansas City Chiefs.
One of the many names linked to Pioli in recent days is Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, who worked with Pioli in Cleveland during the 1990s.
Lerner was scheduled to meet Atlanta president Rich McKay on Thursday about the GM position.
On the coaching front, Lerner was scheduled to also interview New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagunolo on Thursday.
The Browns have already interviewed fired New York Jets coach Eric Mangini and have meetings scheduled with Tennessee defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels today.
SAN DIEGO ó Chargers stars LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates missed a second straight practice as San Diego continued to prepare for its home wild-card playoff game against Indianapolis on Saturday.
It sounds as if Tomlinson, who has a strained groin, is in better shape than Gates, who has a sprained ankle.
“If we were playing today he probably wouldn’t play,” coach Norv Turner said about Gates, the Pro Bowl tight end.
And L.T.? “Yeah, I think he would,” the coach said.
TEMPE, Ariz. ó The NFL has granted a second, final 24-hour extension of its television blackout deadline for Arizona’s wild card playoff game against Atlanta on Saturday.
The team has until 2:30 p.m. today to sell its remaining tickets. A sellout crowd is necessary for the NFL to lift its blackout of the home market.