Steelers stop the playoff madness with win

G. Newman Lowrance/NFL.com

(G. Newman Lowrance/NFL.com)

PITTSBURGH — Finally, there’s a little bit of sanity in this crazy postseason.

Finally, getting a first-round bye actually meant something.

I was beginning to have my doubts.

Like the other teams with first-round byes — the Titans, Panthers and Giants — the Steelers came out looking more rusty than well rested. That was especially true with QB Ben Roethlisberger (right), who didn’t practice for a week while recovering from the concussion he suffered in the regular-season finale against the Browns.

But the Steelers eventually gathered themselves and imposed their will, in all phases, as the Chargers ran out of gas after an overtime wild-card victory over the Colts and a cross-country trip.

Before the game, though, there was plenty of buzz throughout the Heinz Field press box about the fact that a couple of nine-win teams — the Cardinals and Eagles — would meet in the NFC Championship Game.

And that naturally led to plenty of conversation about the possibility of the Chargers beating the Steelers, which then would set up the potential for a Super Bowl between a team with nine wins and 8-8 San Diego. From what I could gather, this was something the assembled national media preferred because, many of them said, it would be the most compelling story.

Sorry, but I’ve been in this business too long to buy that. The real reason a lot of the writers and broadcasters here were intrigued by the prospect of a Chargers victory was because it would have put the AFC title game in warm, sunny San Diego rather than cold, dreary Pittsburgh.

Another big topic of press-box talk was the remaining head-coaching openings and how the events of divisional-round weekend might impact them. A couple of writers thought the Giants’ loss might make their defensive coordinator, Steve Spagnuolo, a little less of a hot candidate than he had been. Perhaps, although I think his credentials were well-established before today.

On the other hand, the Titans’ loss actually could be a big advantage for their defensive coordinator, Jim Schwartz, who’s free to be hired … maybe by the Lions?

Vic Carucci is reporting from Heinz Field

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