Print and Go Back ESPN.com: AFC North [Print without images]

Sunday, January 2, 2011
Polamalu decision shows importance of bye

By James Walker

CLEVELAND -- Sunday's decision to play ailing Pro Bowler Troy Polamalu (Achilles) is a clear example of how important the AFC North division title and a first-round bye are to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Pittsburgh (11-4) can clinch both with a win against the Cleveland Browns (5-10).

Despite an injury risk to their best player, the Steelers feel this is a must-win game. A two-week break would be crucial for this team, because Pittsburgh has a lot of injured veterans, including Polamalu and defensive end Aaron Smith (triceps).

The Steelers will be quietly keeping their fingers crossed with Polamalu. Pittsburgh cannot win a Super Bowl without its do-it-all safety, so the Steelers have to hope he suffers no setbacks in this game.

But in terms of beating Cleveland, the Steelers aren't leaving anything to chance.