Playoff Scenarios

PITTSBURGH - The Steelers will face a very familiar foe in the first round of next weekend's playoffs, and they know where that game will occur. <br><br> It's the when that nobody is sure of. <br><br> With Cleveland's 24-16 victory over Atlanta Sunday and the New York Jets' win over Green Bay, the Browns clinched the No. 6 seed in the AFC playoffs, knocking defending Super Bowl champion New England out. <br><br>

As the No. 3 seed, the Steelers (10-5-1) will host the Browns (9-7) at Heinz Field. In the other AFC Wildcard game, the Jets (9-7) would host Indianapolis (9-7).

Steelers' head coach Bill Cowher said he doesn't care who the Steelers play or when they play them, he's just happy to still be playing.

"It's the playoffs, everybody is 0-0, and we will go from there," said Cowher.

The Steelers defeated the Browns twice this season, beating them 16-13 in overtime Sept. 29 at Heinz Field, and 23-20 Nov. 3 in Cleveland.

This will be the second time in the storied history of the two teams that they will meet three times in the same season. The Steelers defeated the Browns twice during the 1994 regular season and then beat them in the playoffs, 29-9, in a game played at Three Rivers Stadium.

According to several sources, everything hinged on Sunday night's Tampa Bay at Chicago game.

If Tampa Bay defeated the Bears, the Buccaneers enter the NFC playoffs as the No. 2 seed behind Philadelphia. That would send the Atlanta Falcons to Green Bay and the New York Giants to San Francisco.

Since the 49ers finish their regular season Monday night at St. Louis, the league won't make them play a Saturday playoff game.

That means the 49ers will host the Giants Sunday night (8:30 p.m.).

And since the league likely won't want both teams from New York playing on the same day, the Jets will host the Colts Saturday, pushing the Steelers and Browns to Sunday's early game (4:30 p.m.).

If Tampa lost to the Bears Sunday night, the league would be forced to await the outcome of Monday night's game. A Tampa Bay loss coupled with a San Francisco victory would make the 49ers the No. 3 seed and the Bucs the No. 4.

That would send Atlanta to San Francisco for one first-round matchup in the NFC, with Tampa hosting the Giants in the other. Since San Francisco is locked into the Sunday night game, that would place the Giants at Tampa game to Saturday.

Again, since the league won't want both New York teams to play on the same day, that would push the Jets to Sunday and the Steelers' game to Saturday afternoon (4:30 p.m.)

--Dale Lolley

Steel City Insider Top Stories