The Pittsburgh Steelers are out of Latrobe and back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are already into the regular season, where everything is magnified and, you know, actually counts. The team is working through the highs and lows and dramas that go through a typical Steelers season.
How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Will the Steelers rest starters in the finale if they secure the division Sunday?
For the past two seasons, the Steelers have had little or nothing to play for in the regular season finale, both games coming against the Cleveland Browns. In 2016, they were already locked into their seeding with no ability to help or hinder their postseason positioning. Last season, they could have secured the number one seed, but would have needed an improbable loss from the New England Patriots to make that happen.
In both cases, the Steelers rested a lot of starters, particularly last year. This season, they could be in a position in which they have little to play for in terms of seeding if they win and the Baltimore Ravens lose, which would lock up the AFC North.
But they would still be guaranteed to be in the running for the third seed, if they really made much of a difference to them, because the Patriots are 9-5. Even if they win, the Steelers would be half a game back, meaning that a loss by them in the finale coupled with a Steelers win would move them up.
They could even still be in the running for the number two seed with the Houston Texans are 10-4, but they would have to lose their final two games in order to make that happen.
And if we consider last season in which they could have potentially been playing for homefield advantage but chose to rest starters anyway, it’s possible that Head Coach Mike Tomlin takes that same approach again, especially since their bye week was back in Week Seven.
On the other hand, this is a team looking for momentum, unlike the past two years. While they just beat the Patriots, they lost the three games before that. They are working on getting right ahead of the postseason still. Maybe a couple of players get rest, but not enough to hinder the chances of a victory?