There is no way that Pittsburgh rests their starters in preparation of the playoffs. The Steelers are currently the fourth seed and would host the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first round of the playoffs January 5th or 6th. This would be the second time the Jags have visited Heinz Field this season, and the Steelers may not be saying it, but they'd much rather avoid another matchup if they could. However, the only way this happens is if they defeat the Ravens while San Diego loses at Oakland.
Even though the Chargers should easily defeat the Raiders, the Steelers won't know it as both teams games start at 4:15pm (ET). The Ravens-Steelers gametime was just changed this week by the NFL, most likely to prevent either team from scoreboard watching and having an advantage. Specifically, if the Chargers saw the Ravens leading the Steelers as they prepared to start their game against the Raiders, then coach Norv Turner might decide to rest his players. With both games now starting at the same time, they'll have to watch the scoreboards during the games and then make playing decisions on the fly.
However, this is also a division game and I highly doubt the Steelers will just roll over and give this one away to the struggling Ravens who have lost a league leading and franchise worst nine straight games. Besides, even if the Steelers play their second stringers, remember, they are still playing against many of the Ravens second or third stringers as well, mostly due to the devastating injuries the Ravens have suffered throughout this miserable season.
With rookie QB Troy Smith tabbed to start his second game in a row, the Ravens will also be without RB Willis McGahee, who broke two ribs early in last week's Seattle game. Filling in for McGahee will be Musa Smith, who should be backed up by little-used Mike Anderson. The Ravens injuries have decimated both sides of the ball, with 11 starters from the beginning of the season having spent considerable time on the sidelines, including six former Pro-Bowlers (McNair, Heap, Lewis, McAlister, Pryce, Rolle) currently out. Any team would also be in a similar position as the Ravens are, although the pathetic play of their reserves just make it that much more noticeable.
These two teams hate each other and although the Steelers put a beatdown on Baltimore the first time around on Monday Night Football, they still remember the Ravens slapping them around in Pittsburgh last season (37-7) and would love to embarrass them again in front of the home crowd. Expect the Steelers to play their starters and take an unsurmountable lead into halftime, allowing Pittsburgh to rest their starters and coasting to victory in the second half. The Steelers players to a man are saying they couldn't care less who they host in the first round, but we all know if their choice was the Jaguars, Titans or Browns, we all know they'd be rooting for the chance to knock off the Browns for the third time this season.
Unfortunately, they don't have a choice. That luxury belongs to the San Diego Chargers, who, if they win, face either the Titans or the Browns. Otherwise, the Chargers host the Jaguars in what would be a real tough game. Think the Chargers will play all out agains the Raiders? Duh!
Who gets the final Wild Card slot in the AFC?
Titans (if they win, they're in; if they lose, they're out) (8 votes)
Browns (win or lose, it's still up to the Titans) (6 votes)
14 total votes