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Woodley: Patriots, Bengals won't play to win

| Thursday, Dec. 31, 2009

Outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley made a prediction Wednesday.

The Steelers have to hope it doesn't come true.

Woodley said the Patriots and Bengals will "lay down" Sunday and not play to win. His reasoning: both want to keep the Steelers, who need more than just a victory Sunday at Miami to qualify for the postseason, out of the playoffs.

"Nobody wants to see Pittsburgh in," said Woodley, who earned AFC Player of the Week honors for making 10 tackles and notching two sacks in a 23-20 win against the Ravens last Sunday. "Everybody knows that we're a dangerous team going into the playoffs, no matter how we played throughout the whole year."

No matter what their motivation is, the Bengals and Patriots are in a position to rest or only play key starters sparingly Sunday.

Each has already won its division and neither can significantly improve its position in the AFC playoffs with a win Sunday.

They are, however, in a position to help the Steelers.

If the Steelers beat the Dolphins and the Patriots and Bengals also win — they play the Texans and Jets, respectively — the Steelers make the playoffs as a wild-card team.

They could still get in under several other scenarios, but all involve either the Jets or Texans losing. That is why the Steelers have to root for the Patriots and the Bengals, the team they knocked out of the playoffs in 2005 after getting in as the No. 6 seed.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick has been coy about his strategy for New England's regular-season finale in Houston. Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco said yesterday in a conference call with New York reporters that coach Marvin Lewis has told him Cincinnati will try to win its game against the Jets Sunday night.

Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison isn't so sure about that.

"They might sell us up the river," the three-time Pro Bowler said of the Bengals. "We did kind of go up on them one year and beat them. I don't know if they remember that or not. I hope not. I hope they go in there and play a full game with all their starters."

Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton said he wouldn't have an issue with either team if it doesn't play key starters.

"I wouldn't (play them)," Hampton said. "I would keep my guys fresh. That's the main focus, playoff games. I'm a firm believer in that."

One sentiment that seemed to be universal among the Steelers' players: if they miss out on the postseason for the first time since 2006 they only have themselves to blame.

Had the 8-7 Steelers beaten the Chiefs, Raiders or Browns they would have only had to depend on themselves to get into the playoffs.

They are in a considerably different situation than a year ago when they already had the AFC North and No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs locked up going into the final week of the season.

The Steelers still treated their last regular-season game as if it were any other. That is something Woodley and his teammates have to hope the Patriots and Jets do Sunday.

"We definitely wouldn't lay down because it's a pride thing for us, going out there and winning ball games, shutting teams down," Woodley said. "Other teams don't feel the same way when Pittsburgh sees a little (playoff) light."

When asked about Woodley's "lay down" comments in regard to the Patriots and Bengals, James Farrior smiled.

"Hopefully," the veteran inside linebacker said, "it will make them play."

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