Steelers, Packers battle to avoid elmination

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GREEN BAY, Wis. – By the time the Steelers kick off their game against the Green Bay Packers today at Lambeau Field, both teams could essentially be eliminated from the playoffs.

That won’t matter to either team. Despite needing help to get into the postseason, both expect to play as if they’re in a vacuum today, paying no attention to what’s going on around the league.

“I don’t know what scenario it takes for us to get in,” said Steelers tight end Heath Miller. “I just know that we’re going to put all of our effort into winning this game. Hopefully, we can do that.”

The Steelers (6-8) need to win and have Baltimore (8-6) and Miami (8-6) lose to New England and Buffalo, respectively, to stay alive in the AFC wild-card race heading into the final week of the regular season.

For Green Bay (7-6-1), things are more simple. The Packers need to win their final two games and have Chicago (8-6) lose one of its final two games to capture the NFC North.

“I knew it was going to be a game of importance, and it’s exactly that,” said Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy. “Both teams need this game.”

That’s really been nothing new for the Steelers and Packers when they get together. Though they only play once every four seasons in the regular season, there’s typically something on the line. Since 2003, Pittsburgh has won 109 games, and the Packers 105. Only New England and Indianapolis have more victories over that span.

The last time the two teams met was at the conclusion of the 2010 season in Super Bowl 45. The Packers came away with a 31-24 victory, getting three touchdown passes from game MVP Aaron Rodgers.

Rodgers won’t play today as he’ll miss his seventh game with a broken left collarbone. Matt Flynn will make his fourth start in Rodgers’ place, and the Packers are 2-4-1 in games Rodgers hasn’t taken the majority of the snaps in this season.

“Obviously, Rodgers is going to make them go, but they’ve been doing real well in his absence,” said Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau referring to the Packers’ two-game winning streak. “They’re still averaging up around 400 yards per game, and that’s a tremendous amount of offensive output.”

The Steelers would like to get a win to inch closer to .500 and possibly knock Green Bay out of postseason consideration. But don’t think for a minute that will erase the memory of losing to the Packers in the Super Bowl.

“That would be great, but it still wouldn’t be like the Super Bowl win,” said Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons.

The game will feature two of the top rookie running backs in the NFL.

Green Bay’s Eddie Lacy and Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell were each second-round draft picks. The Steelers passed on Lacy to take Bell.

Lacy leads all NFL rookies in rushing yards with 1,028 rushing yards, and Bell’s 1,034 total yards (646 rushing and 388 receiving) leads all AFC rookies.

“It was an easy decision for me,” said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin of the choice of Bell over Lacy. “Lacy is a top-quality back and rightfully so. He was a great back at Alabama. He is over 1,000 yards and is proving his worth in Green Bay. Probably, it’s just a matter of preference. Just like I am sure Cincinnati went through the same discussions and thoughts when they took Giovani Bernard in front of both of them.”

The ability of either team to establish a running game could be critical today. The weather is expected to be chilly with a chance of significant snowfall.

“Should be fun,” said Miller. “I’ll bring my long johns. You would prefer to play in 70 degrees and sunny, a few clouds maybe. It’s football. It’s played in all kinds of weather. You’ve just got to embrace it.”

Odds and end zones

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for a career-high 503 yards and three touchdowns in his last regular season game against Green Bay, a 37-36 win at Heinz Field. … Roethlisberger needs 85 yards to record his third 4,000-yard season. … Antonio Brown needs 92 yards to break Yancey Thigpen’s team record of 1,398 receiving yards in a season. … Defensive end Brett Keisel is expected to return to the Steelers lineup after missing three of the past four games with a foot injury.

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