Just getting there isn't the objective

Mike Prisuta enjoyed the professional attitude in the Steelers locker room following their 23-7 win over the Bengals.

As they entered the locker room following a victory over Cincinnati, the Steelers stood a mere Patriots win or tie against the Bears and a Jets win or tie against the Dolphins away from clinching a spot in the playoffs.

No one cared.

"We haven't really been focusing on that," said Ryan Clark, who maintained he was unaware that a set of circumstances that would make that happen existed when he reported for work on Sunday morning.

"Obviously, getting into the playoffs is a goal of ours but we feel like that goal starts with the AFC North. That's what we worried about today, win another AFC North game."

Added linebacker James Farrior: "That doesn't matter to us right now. If we keep stacking these wins we won't even have to worry about what other people are doing."

Although you get no trophies for qualifying, simply reaching the tournament is a significant achievement for a team that missed out on all the postseason fun the year before.

But the Steelers weren't celebrating, or poised to break into song either individually or collectively in the event the scoreboard would prove favorable following the 4 p.m. games.

Instead they spoke through their play against the Bengals, following up a monumental effort against the Ravens with a performance that ensured that monumental effort against the Ravens wouldn't be wasted.

It wasn't always pain free on offense. Still, the Steelers had the look of a team that was intent on doing much more this season than merely make the playoffs.

And afterward they sounded like one.

* Gotta rip the officiating, yet again. By Ben Roethlisberger's count he was hit in the head four times.

That's four personal fouls missed by referee Walt Coleman.

"I got the same response that I got last week (from Terry McAulay in Baltimore), that ‘he was just trying to tackle you,'" Roethlisberger said. "So I just kind of let it go."

Farrior wasn't willing to be as politically correct.

"It was terrible, man," he said of the officiating. "I think they protect all the quarterbacks but ours. But we'll keep on fighting, keep on going, and hopefully they'll catch it one day.

"We see the hits Ben takes every week. It's kind of ridiculous that they always miss those calls, but any time we breathe on the quarterback they always seem to fine us."

The allowing of late hits and head shots on Roethlisberger isn't a part of the perceived conspiracy against the Steelers this season; it's been going on a whole lot longer.

But it's just as disgraceful.

As for that alleged conspiracy, for the second time in three games an offensive line survived 60 minutes without getting one holding call while trying to block a pass rush that came in having accumulated a league-leading 36 sacks (tied with Oakland) and open holes against the NFL's No. 1 run defense.

Looks like the Bills' O-line will be getting some late competition for All-Pro recognition from Dennis Roland, Bobbie Williams, Kyle Cook, Nate Livings and Andrew "Mr. Touchdown" Whitworth of the Bengals.

* The line of the day was once again uttered by Mike Tomlin in the direction of Hines Ward as Ward was entering the locker room following a 115-yard receiving day, his fourth 100-yard game of the season and the 29th of his career.

"C'mon Old Yeller," Tomlin said. "I ain't gonna take you out back and shoot you today; maybe tomorrow."

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