The Pittsburgh Steelers know what's ahead of them, and they can't wait to get there. With defeats of Tennessee and Cleveland the next two weeks, the Steelers gain the almighty home-field advantage through the upcoming playoffs.
"It's going to be a dogfight," said wide receiver Nate Washington, "and we're ready for it. The opportunity is out there. We've just got to make it."
|Terry Bradshaw and Company parlayed the No. 1 seed, but that was in 1979. (Getty Images)|
Everyone in the NFL wants to be home for the playoffs, but there's one AFC team where the home-field factor actually has been a disadvantage ... and you're looking at it.
Four times in the past 16 years, the Steelers had home-field advantage entering the playoffs -- 1992, 1994, 2001 and 2004 -- and four times they failed to make it to the Super Bowl. Three times they lost the conference championship game, and once they were bounced in the divisional round.
Staying home for the playoffs is supposed to be an enormous advantage ... and usually it is ... but not in Pittsburgh. In fact, over their past eight playoff games at home the Steelers are 4-4, with one victory in OT and another where they had to rally from a 17-point second-half deficit.
In 1995 they were the AFC's No. 2 seed but hosted the conference championship game after Indianapolis knocked off top seed Kansas City. The Steelers won, advancing to Super Bowl XXX, where they lost to Dallas.
Two years later, the same thing happened -- with Pittsburgh playing the conference championship game at home after the top-seeded Chiefs bowed out again, this time to Denver. And this time the Broncos prevailed and went on to win the Super Bowl.
It doesn't take an Einstein to figure out what home-field advantage means when it happens to Pittsburgh -- almost nothing. Dating back to 1992, the Steelers are 1-4 in conference championship games at home and 0-4 when they hold home-field advantage entering the playoffs.
That means they haven't been the No. 1 seed and graduated magna cum laude from the AFC playoffs since ... well, since 1979, when Terry Bradshaw was the quarterback, Chuck Noll the coach and the Terrible Towels the rage.
Maybe that's why after Sunday's defeat of Baltimore, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger cautioned teammates not to get too caught up in the implications of next weekend's game at Tennessee. Roethlisberger shrugged when asked about the game, saying "there's no pressure" on the Steelers because they already won their division and clinched a first-round bye.
In Pittsburgh, the bye is more important because, as history tells us, home-field advantage really doesn't work for the Steelers. In fact, it's more like a home-field disadvantage.
But that doesn't make Pittsburgh unique. Of the past 14 clubs that gained home-field advantage entering the AFC playoffs, only four -- or 25 percent -- went on to the Super Bowl.