Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
The last key should not come as a surprise: It has been hinted at it the last two slides, but that does not downplay its significance.
The Pittsburgh Steelers clinching the top seed has a lot more relevance to their success than merely home field advantage and bragging rights, though those don’t hurt either. No, it comes down to being able to rest their two most important stars: Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu.
Resting Roethlisberger is not as pertinent as resting Polamalu. “Big Ben” has that clunky kind of game where if he can walk he will find a way to be effective. Hell, he played through the end of the regular season and all through the playoffs on a broken foot.
Malu’s game, however, is based on quickness and explosion. As soon as he blew the open field tackle that resulted in a touchdown against Ray Rice and the Ravens, there was no doubt in my mind he was not right; No. 43 may have never missed a tackle like that in his life. The only hope for Steelers fans was that it was the kind of injury a bye week before the Super Bowl could miraculously heal. It didn’t.
Indeed, it took Polamalu’s calf well into the offseason to get right. If Pittsburgh can indeed sweep the division and take out the Pats, they should feel comfortable resting Polamalu for Week 17 or earlier—necessity pending, as all of their final five opponents had losing records in 2010.
A healthy combination of Roethlisberger and Polamalu will make all the difference between completing the mission towards Super Bowl number seven.
Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment thanking me for my work, or calling me an idiot for my thoughts. You can follow Alexander on twitter @thesportsdude7, or become a fan on his bleacher report profile.