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 BALTIMORE (AP) -The NFL playoff formula asserts that the Pittsburgh Steelers can earn a No. 3 seed in the AFC playoffs if they beat the Baltimore Ravens and the San Diego Chargers lose to Oakland.
If that was the only thing at stake Sunday, Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and the majority of the starters would probably be sitting on the bench wearing baseball caps by the second quarter.
Coming off a 10-day layoff and playing their first game without injured running back Willie Parker, the Steelers are much more interested in bringing some momentum into the postseason than entering as a No. 3 seed.
``When you aspire to do what we aspire to do, you've got to beat everybody,'' Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said. ``So at the end of the day, (the seeding) is not that significant. This organization won a Super Bowl two years ago from the six-seed.''
Fact: If the Steelers (10-5) win and San Diego falls, Pittsburgh opens the playoffs at home against Tennessee or Cleveland. If the Steelers enter at the No. 4 seed, they face visiting Jacksonville, a team that beat the Steelers at Heinz Field on Dec. 16.
Being the third seed also means Pittsburgh would play Indianapolis, not New England, in the next round. So it seems that being a No. 3 seed would be beneficial.
Fact: The Steelers have decided to ignore the facts.
``I don't care. Three or four, we're in,'' guard Alan Faneca said. ``That doesn't have an affect on us one way or another.''
Of more significance to the Steelers is that a victory will give them a season sweep of the AFC North and provide them a measure of revenge against the Ravens (4-11), who last season beat Pittsburgh twice by a combined 58-7 score.
``Hopefully, we can go into the playoffs with our 11th win,'' defensive end Brett Keisel said. ``We're trying to sweep our division and it will be a good test and a good finish to our season.''
Said Roethlisberger: ``We're not thinking about the playoffs right now. It's all about Baltimore.''
The Ravens have lost a franchise-record nine straight, including a 38-7 defeat in Pittsburgh on Nov. 5 that was even more lopsided than the score indicates. A victory Sunday won't make things right for the Ravens, but it would at least make the offseason a bit more palatable.
``You want to go out on a winning note, whether you've lost 10 in a row or 12 in a row,'' Ravens wide receiver Derrick Mason said. ``Regardless of how the season went, regardless of how many injuries we've had as a team, go out on a winning note would be a fitting end to a very trying, emotional and very disappointing season.''
The Ravens are limping to the finish. Rookie Troy Smith will start at quarterback in place of injured Kyle Boller, who stepped in for injured Steve McNair. The depth chart at running back is similar: Musa Smith will get his first NFL start because Willis McGahee is out with two broken ribs and backup Mike Anderson has a strained hamstring.
The injuries haven't been limited to the offense. Baltimore will be without starting cornerbacks Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle, and it's likely that linebacker Ray Lewis (finger) will also be sidelined.
So forgive the Ravens if they feel no pity for the Steelers, who'll finish the season without Parker (broken leg).
A year ago, Pittsburgh spent the final month of a disappointing season playing out the schedule with no chance of reaching the playoffs. So the Steelers know exactly how the Ravens feel, and therefore understand Baltimore's motivation in the season finale.
``You're playing for pride, you're playing for respect, trying to grow for next year. We've been in that spot in this locker room, so we know what it's like,'' Faneca said. ``It's not a fun place to be, but I think the important thing is that you remember it so that you're not in the same place next year.''
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