Playoffs?!? Steelers polled on scenarios

Jim Wexell figured Joey Porter and Willie Parker and Hines Ward had better things to do, so he asked the true scholars in the locker room about the morass of playoff scenarios before them. The journey was more fun than the answers.

It would've been easier to canvass the locker room in search of the meaning of Christmas than to ask these Pittsburgh Steelers to clarify the needed playoff tiebreakers. I knew that going in. But instead of talking to the usual suspects, my plan was to seek out the really smart guys. And there's Charlie Batch, a guy who's got his act together. Charlie knows what's going on.

Charlie, who'd know this stuff?

"You can't go wrong with the Ivy League," said Batch. "Sean Morey will know."

But of course. Morey went to Brown, and there he is on the other side of the locker room.

How about it, Sean? What do you see when you look through this morass of tiebreakers in the NFL manuel?

"You'd better ask Clark Haggans," he said.

And I said this: Clark Haggans? Wha- ?

"Ask Coach Cowher," said Jeff Reed, seated nearby. "Yeah. Or Chris Berman."

"He's not here dumbass," said Morey.

But Berman is from Brown. Quick thinking there, Jeff. Seriously, Sean, what would it take for this team to make the playoffs?

"I don't really know what happens if we win out and there are tiebreakers," Morey said. "I don't know what determines who goes to the playoffs and who doesn't, but I understand we need some teams to lose. We need some help. But first and foremost we need to win out. We need to win our games and I think that we seriously have to, instead of looking at the playoff picture, we have to win out. We have to win our games."

Um, I'm presuming that, but for the rest of it, Sean, I need someone with a working brain. Come on, you earned a degree in ... wait a second ... let's look this up ... organizational behavior and management? No wonder you're giving me the runaround.

"Look, I'm just focused on the task at hand," he said. "There are a lot of things we have to study and learn for the game. And sometimes you don't want to count numbers and speculate. As a player, you just understand you have to win, do what you have to do, not worry about things you can't control. I think that's something we have to do. Clark might have a pretty good feel for it. I've got two little girls at home in the holiday season, so I'm not spending time looking at that stuff. Things will be a lot clearer if we win this game."

Charlie, man, your boy Morey won't play. And then he sends me to Haggans. Who else have you got for me?

"Boston College. Over there," Batch said pointing into the corner where Brian St. Pierre and Clint Kriewaldt were busting on Chris Hoke.

"BC is so close, it may as well be in the Ivy League."

St. Pierre was in the middle of some chalk talk. On the locker room board, he'd written No. 2 and No. 57 and "rest of team" in a "circle of trust" at the top of the board. Then he drew an arrow from the outside of the circle to the very bottom of the board, where it ended at a dot next to the name "Hokie."

Uh, Brian, you were recommended by Mr. Batch as someone who might be smart enough to understand the tiebreakers.

"Answer the right way," warned Hoke. "Gotta win out. Gotta win out."

"We gotta win out," said St. Pierre.

Oh, I see. This is the Bill Cowher answer. No wonder Reed told me to go to Cowher at the start.

Look, Brian, I got that answer from the Ivy League. You're better than that.

"Do you know them?" St. Pierre asked.

Some of it. But have you zeroed in on teams that must lose or anything like that?

"I know the Jets need to lose. I know Cincy needs to lose to Denver."

But that's not a must.

"It isn't?"

No, Denver could beat Cincy, lose to San Fran and you hope everyone's tied at 9-7. Then there'd be two wild-card spots open.

"Jacksonville has to lose, too," he said.

But if Tennessee joins a three-way tie at 9-7, they kick Jacksonville out and you'd beat Tennessee by a better record versus common opponents.

"Why do you ask him if you know all this stuff?" Hoke said.

"Yeah. I say we just win out," said St. Pierre.

Batch was gone by now, so St. Pierre pointed me to Jeff Hartings's locker. But Hartings wasn't there; never is anymore. He must be ducking the retirement question everyone wants to ask him. But Heath Miller was over there, and Heath went to Virginia. And he had a 36 on his Wonderlic. Yeah, man.

"No, not really," Miller answered. "I really haven't looked at that stuff. I look at the records, but as far as getting in-depth, no. I knew last week a couple teams couldn't win and they didn't. I don't know if there's anything like that this week."

Cincinnati, Jacksonville and Buffalo can't all win, nor can Denver, Buffalo, Jacksonville and Oakland all win.

"Well, I know you can easily get caught up in all that, but if you don't take care of your business then all the other stuff doesn't mean anything. If we win, I'll find out after the game: ‘We're still alive? Oh, alright, good.'"

Maybe Morey was right. Maybe they really don't have all this time to waste on ... on ... stuff I waste all my time on. Oh, but there's Trai Essex. He went to Northwestern, the Stanford of the Midwest, or something like that.

Trai, have you looked over the tiebreakers?

"I know that Jacksonville can't win," he said. "We need them to lose twice."

Hey, that's not bad. Some mathematician on the internet says Jacksonville losing twice is the most important occurrence, outside of the Steelers winning. But, still, Tennessee could bump Jacksonville out of a three-team tiebreaker.

"Really? Then where would it go to after that?"

Well, if it goes to strength of victory, that's undetermined at this point. Like, if Cleveland wins you'd get two more wins on your SOV because you beat them twice.

"See I didn't know what it went to after AFC record."

Record against common opponents, and you have the Jets and Titans on common opponents. Wait, I'm asking you.

"I look at this stuff, and I look at the numbers, but I wasn't sure. But I do look at it. I'm not going to lie. I look at the numbers and try to figure out everything. I can't look at the numbers and say just forget it. But what it comes down to is we've got to win."

I can get that from Haggans. Oh, Clark, there you are. You went to ... Colorado State? Anyway, people say you're the real deal on these tiebreakers. What do you know?

"We need Cincinnati to win. We need Jacksonville to just forfeit the rest of their (stinkin') season. We need the Jets to lose both. And I'm not sure about the whole thing with Tennessee."

Well, you don't really need Cincy to win, or the Jets to lose both, but you ... ah, just go out and win.


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