By Lynn Saternow
Herald Sports Editor
THE PITTSBURGH Steelers are making a run for the playoffs. All they need is a strange course of events to happen and they are in.
Of course, they have to win their last two games to start with. And then various teams need to win or lose, making the odds something like winning the Powerball jackpot.
But like they say: “If you don’t play, you can’t win!” So the Steelers will play.
But will they win?
Even many Steelers fans have already given up on the season. Last week was the smallest home crowd in the 13-year history of Heinz Field with about 20,000 empty seats.
The Steelers face Green Bay and Cleveland in their final two games. And more importantly today, they face a Packers team which will be without the services of All-Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
However, quarterback Matt Flynn replaced Rodgers last week and looked like the second coming of Brett Favre in rallying the Pack to a stunning victory over Dallas. He threw for 4 TDs in the second half.
Of course you have to consider that Dallas has no defense. And you have to consider that Cowboys’ QB Tony Romo has a propensity to throw interceptions at key times to cost his team ballgames.
Meanwhile, the Steelers appear to be much improved over the team that went 0-4 to start the season. The offensive line has jelled, Ben Roethlisberger is having a phenomenal year and the defense has made strides.
The oddsmakers don’t know what to do about a betting line on this one. There are too many question marks.
On paper you would have to favor the Steelers. However — and this is a big HOWEVER — this game is at Green Bay. Not an easy place to win.
Therefore I give the edge to the Packers who have loyal fans who will actually still fill the stadium. Green Bay, 28-24.
The Browns, meanwhile, continue to find ways to lose games they actually could win. The defense has bright moments, like two turnovers for TDs last week, then falls apart at key times and can’t stop touchdown drives.
Still, Cleveland is only a few players away from being a pretty good team and with a plethora of draft picks coming up, they could be heard from next year.
Today they play the Jets, who have been pathetic. The game is pretty much a toss-up. But because of New York’s offensive struggles, I can see Cleveland winning this one, 17-16.
Last week my picks went 6-8 for a season mark of 119-85. Following are the rest of this week’s predictions (betting line in parentheses just for fun):
Carolina (-3) over New Orleans
Dallas (-3) over Washington
Seattle (-101⁄2) over Arizona
Chicago (plus 3) over Philly
San Fran (-12) over Atlanta
Kansas City (-6) over Indy
Detroit (-9) over NY Giants
Denver (-101⁄2) over Houston
Jacksonville (plus 51⁄2) over Tennessee
Buffalo (plus 21⁄2) over Miami
St. Louis (-51⁄2) over Tampa
Cincy (-7) over Minnesota
Baltimore (-21⁄2) over New England
Lynn Saternow is sports editor of The Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.