Laying Down?

LaMarr Woodley predicts that Cincinnati and New England will "lay down" Sunday, but none of his Steelers teammates agree with him.

As the Steelers prepare for the Miami Dolphins, at least one player has begun the psychological warfare on other teams whose help the Steelers need on Sunday.

Linebacker LaMarr Woodley called out both the Cincinnati Bengals (at New York Jets) and New England Patriots (at Houston).

"Cincinnati is probably going to go into New York and lay down for the Jets and not play them hard just because they don't want to see Pittsburgh in there," Woodley said, "because they know if we get into the playoffs we're a dangerous team."

The Steelers may need both the Texans and Jets to lose in order to sneak into the playoffs at 9-7. They do need at least one of them to lose. Cincinnati and New England are vying only to determine the No. 3 and 4 seeds in the AFC playoffs. If New England beats Houston, it would render the primetime Sunday game meaningless for the Bengals.

"All of them will lay down," Woodley said. "No one wants to see Pittsburgh in there. That's just how it is. Everybody knows we're a dangers team once we get into the playoffs no matter how we played throughout the whole year."

The Steelers have three scenarios to make the playoffs if they beat Miami:

--Houston loses or ties and Jets lose or tie.

--Houston loses or ties and Baltimore (at Oakland) loses or ties.

--Jets lose or tie and Baltimore loses or ties and Denver (home vs. Kansas City) loses or ties.

A few teammates disagreed with Woodley's assessment, particularly that the Bengals would lay down because they did not want to play the Steelers.

"Being that they beat us twice this year, I'm sure they have confidence if they do have to play us," safety Ryan Clark said.

"We can't worry about scenarios," tackle Willie Colon said. "You start worrying about that we kind of take the edge off ourselves."

Pittsburgh lost five straight in weeks 9-13, three to teams with some of the worst records in the league -- Kansas City, Oakland and Cleveland.

"This game is about playing, winning and losing, and at the end of the day you have to win," tackle Max Starks said.

Tackle Willie Colon said he does not blame a team such as the Bengals if they do not go all out and play everyone Sunday night in New York.

"I wouldn't. I'd keep my guys fresh and make sure my guys who have to play a game next week are ready to play. That's the main focus, the playoff game. If the game doesn't mean anything it doesn't mean anything, I'm a firm believer in that.

"Coaches got to do what's best for their team and be healthy going into the playoffs. I think that's their main focus. And if the game doesn't mean anything, why risk getting somebody hurt?"

SERIES HISTORY: 20th regular-season meeting. Steelers lead series 10-9. Pittsburgh is 4-7 in Miami. The teams also met three times in the postseason with the Dolphins holding a 2-1 lead. They last met in the muck at Heinz Field in 2007 in what was dubbed the Four Rivers game, won by the Steelers 3-0 on a field goal by Jeff Reed with 17 seconds left. The Steelers also won in their most recent game in Miami, 13-3, on Sept. 26, 2004. That game, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's first start, was pushed to a night start by a hurricane.

NOTES, QUOTES

* The Steelers put only two players on the Pro Bowl roster and no offensive players for the second year in a row. James Harrison will make his third straight start at outside linebacker and NT Casey Hampton is a reserve, his fifth Pro Bowl appearance.

However, with the game being played Sunday before the Super Bowl, some Steelers alternates could get in as players from the Super Bowl team and perhaps the loser of the AFC Championship Game drop out.

* LB LaMarr Woodley was named AFC defensive player of the week for his play against Baltimore. He had two sacks and 10 tackles, and also forced a fumble. Woodley, though, was not happy he did not make the Pro Bowl.

"I guess I have to play harder and maybe next year have 21 sacks," Woodley said. "I have to put some hot numbers out there to get noticed."

* It appears Troy Polamalu will miss his seventh straight game with a sprained PCL in his left knee, even though he went through a limited practice for the first time during that span.

"Whenever you take this much time off it's kind of a mix of everything," he said. "It's trying to get your nervous system right, trying to get muscle bulk from the atrophy, trying to get some strength back ... It's a process of even seeing looks at this point in the season. Had I been 100 percent healthy I probably wouldn't be practicing any faster than I am now."

BY THE NUMBERS: 5-1 -- Steelers all-time regular-season record in January, including victories in their past three games played in that month.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We did a lot to hurt ourselves with those five games that we lost. If we get in, it's a blessing. We need help." -- LB James Harrison on team's five-game losing streak in games 9-13.

PLAYER NOTES

* WR Mike Wallace was named Steelers rookie of the year. Wallace is fourth on the Steelers with 37 receptions and tied for second with five touchdown catches. His average of 18.7 yards per catch leads the top 50 AFC receivers.

* QB Ben Roethlisberger was voted the first alternate to the Pro Bowl and likely to be added to the roster because it's probable that one of the three QBs voted to the AFC team will make the Super Bowl.

* TE Heath Miller was voted the first alternate to the Pro Bowl and he too could play in the game, which would be his first.

* LB LaMarr Woodley was voted first alternate at outside linebacker to the Pro Bowl. His 11.5 sacks are third in the AFC and lead the Steelers.

* WR Joey Galloway, signed last week, did not suit up in his first game but likely will be active Sunday in Miami.

GAME PLAN: The Steelers' run defense has not been in top form lately, allowing a 100-yard rusher last Sunday for the first time in 37 games and allowing two teams to top 170 yards in their past three games. They expect Miami to run. On offense, Ben Roethlisberger returns to the site of his first start and will try to show why he should have made the Pro Bowl as the Steelers come out slinging it again.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Dolphins LB Joey Porter vs. OT Max Starks. Porter is a passionate former Steeler who will relish this matchup against both his former team and Starks.

Dolphins RB Ricky Williams vs. Steelers run defense. Steelers lost No. 1 ranking and have slipped to No. 3 after Ravens gouged them for 175 yards. Williams has over 1,000.

Steelers WRs Santonio Holmes and Mike Wallace vs. rookie Dolphins CBs Vontae Davis and Sean Smith. Miami has 23rd pass defense and Pittsburgh has No. 7 pass offense.

INJURY IMPACT: SS Troy Polamalu practiced Wednesday on a limited basis but he is unlikely to play. Tyrone Carter will replace him. WR Hines Ward has both hamstrings injured. He is likely to play but he might not hold up. RB Willie Parker has a shoulder injury and did not practice Wednesday. DE Brett Keisel has a stinger that's been bugging him for the past two games. G Chris Kemoeatu could miss his third straight game with a left wrist injury, rookie Ramon Foster again will replace him.


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