Steelers Beat Writer

Dale Lolley is a contributor to the Observer-Reporter and has been covering the Pittsburgh Steelers since 1993.

As the playoffs begin, the Steelers have one thing the majority of the AFC playoff field doesn’t have – a quarterback with plenty of playoff experience.

In fact, the other quarterbacks in the AFC playoffs entering this weekend had played in 22 career games in the postseason, going 11-11 in those games.

That is one more playoff game than Roethlisberger has appeared in during his career. And his 13-8 career record in the postseason makes him one of just three quarterbacks in the AFC playoffs to have a winning record in the postseason.

Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes (4-1) and Tennessee’s Ryan Tannehill (2-1) are the others.

With a win against the Browns, Roethlisberger will move into a tie with John Elway, Peyton Manning and Terry Bradshaw for the third-most playoff wins by a quarterback in NFL history. Joe Montana (16) and Tom Brady (30) are the only players with more.

Since 2002, quarterbacks making their first career playoff start are 9-30. That’s no coincidence. In the playoffs, experience matters.

“I haven’t thought a lot about it. I just know it’s helpful to our cause,” said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. “So, I haven’t spent a lot of time enjoying the potential aspects of that. I’m more focused on the challenges of preparation.”

Tomlin doesn’t have to be concerned about it because he knows he’s got that edge at quarterback – the most important position on the field – in his back pocket.

  • Somebody from the governor’s office needs to explain why it won’t allow more than 2,500 people into Heinz Field for the playoff game against the Browns.

After all, the casinos are open. Box stores are open. Heck, this week, bars and restaurants opened back up.

But putting even the small fraction of fans that the state permitted into a 68,000-seat outdoor stadium was somehow going to be a danger?

Then again, there hasn’t been a lot of common sense or uniformity used in the decision making at the state level on any of this.

  • Much has been made of the Steelers’ stumbles late in the season as they enter the playoffs having lost four of their past five games – though last Sunday’s 24-22 loss at Cleveland felt more like a win.

But momentum might be overrated in the postseason.

The 2015 Broncos limped into the playoffs with questions about whether Manning or Brock Osweiler should be the quarterback. Those two combined for 23 interceptions during the season.

The Broncos forced seven turnovers and committed just three on their way to winning the Super Bowl.

The 2012 Ravens lost four of their final five games entering the playoffs. They forced 10 turnovers and had four of their own in four playoff wins en route to winning the Super Bowl.

The 2011 Giants lost five of six games before winning their final two to finish the regular season at 9-7. They also were last in the NFL in rushing at 89.2 yards per game. They forced seven turnovers and had just one themselves in the postseason and winning the Super Bowl.

Any of that sound familiar?

The Steelers forced 27 turnovers this season and were 10-1 in games in which they had two or more takeaways. They were 1-3 in games in which they didn’t force a turnover.

The path to playoff wins seems clear.

  • Mason Rudolph showed why the Steelers didn’t feel they needed a veteran backup quarterback to Roethlisberger last week, playing well against the Browns.

So many fans seem to think a player can’t get better. Rudolph obviously has.

Maybe we can make it through the 2021 offseason without fans clamoring for every has-been quarterback who becomes available.

At least that’s the hope here.

This week’s picks

Steelers (minus 6) over Browns: A team, making its first foray into the postseason in nearly two decades, playing against a team that is as healthy as it has been in several months. And that playoff newcomer without its head coach and had no ability to practice all week. Everything about this game screams blowout. And who am I to not listen? Take the Steelers, 27-13

Saints (plus 10) over Bears: The Saints are getting healthy at the right time. And their defense should cause all kinds of issues for the Bears. This looks like a classic mismatch. New Orleans is at home and should roll Chicago. Take the Saints, 34-10

Titans (plus 3 1/2) against Ravens: Correct me if I’m wrong, but the Titans went into Baltimore last season in the playoffs and beat the Ravens. Then, this season, they went to Baltimore in Week 11 and beat the Ravens, 30-24 in overtime. Now, they’re getting points at home against the Ravens? Maybe Baltimore is due to beat Tennessee, but I’ll take the running dog at home. Derrick Henry ran for 133 yards on 28 carries in that matchup earlier this season and could do it again. Either way, neither team will stop the other much. Take the Titans to cover in a 30-27 loss

Last Week: 4-0-1 OTS, Overall: 43-36-6.

Dale Lolley covers the Steelers for DKPittsburghSports.com and writes a Sunday column for the Observer-Reporter.

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