The Steelers would like to celebrate the New Year early this season; they could do so if the Browns upset the Baltimore Ravens in Cleveland on Sunday.
That would give Pittsburgh the AFC North Division championship and the No. 2 seed in the conference. It also would render their game in Cleveland Jan. 2 meaningless, so they could rest a few of their walking wounded and maybe some other key players and older veterans.
"I'm rooting for Cleveland," said linebacker James Farrior, 35. "I'm a Cleveland fan this weekend ... It wouldn't hurt to get a little help from somebody."
If the Ravens beat the Browns, the Steelers would then have to win in Cleveland to get the No. 2 seed and the first-round playoff bye that goes with it.
"It's huge for us. We definitely need it," said nose tackle Casey Hampton. "If you get a bye, it gets you closer to the Super Bowl. You only have to win two games instead of three. Anything can happen in the playoffs so you want to play as least games as possible trying to get there."
Pittsburgh dispatched Carolina easily Thursday night, 27-3. Mike Tomlin gave them three days off over Christmas and they will return Monday for meetings and practice.
"It's big to have some time off," said defensive end Brett Keisel. "That's what we're fighting for is to get that bye too. We've got one more game to do that, but the ball is in our hands."
Cleveland could take care of that for them with a victory Sunday. If that happens, the Steelers would not play a meaningful game until Jan. 15-16 at home with the right to advance to the AFC Championship Game with a victory.
"That would be nice but we're not going to expect anything," said tight end Heath Miller.
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