Will home field matter?

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

PITTSBURGH -- Nearly every home team was sent packing last week in the NFL playoffs.

The exception was the Pittsburgh Steelers, who ran roughshod over the San Diego Chargers, 35-24, at Heinz Field.

But can home teams protect their turf in the conference championships?

If the previous two weeks are any indication, the Steelers and Arizona Cardinals need to be very leery going into Sunday's title games. Road teams are an astounding 5-3 in this year's playoffs, which goes against conventional wisdom. Visitors also were 3-1 in last week's divisional round.

"I just think that's today's NFL," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "I refer to this as the ultimate parity league. I don't think there's much difference between a one seed and a six seed. They're all good teams. I think the teams that are great are the ones that come out of this thing."

Including the playoffs, Pittsburgh is 7-2 at Heinz Field this year. The Steelers also are 2-0 against the Ravens, despite the fact both games were settled by a total margin of seven points.

But the previous two meetings between these bitter rivals no longer matter. It's all about which team pulls out a victory Sunday with a trip to Super Bowl XLIII on the line.

Many road teams have celebrated in opponents' home stadiums after games this postseason. But Pittsburgh desperately wants to buck that trend.

"I definitely don't want to have Baltimore celebrating on our field," Steelers receiver Hines Ward said. "I don't know how long [it would take] to be able to get over that. So we're going to make sure that doesn't happen this Sunday."