Until the second half of Sunday's 28-24 home win over Indianapolis, QB Ben Roethlisberger hadn't truly played well since Nov. 15 vs. Cincinnati, also a victory at Heinz Field. The Steelers hadn't truly played well since before that.
It would be nice for Roethlisberger and the Steelers to build on that second half in Sunday's regular-season finale at Cleveland.
It would be nice for the Steelers to get the No. 2 seed in the AFC, which guarantees a home game in the Divisional Round if you advance past the Wild-Card Round. (For that to happen, Buffalo must lose a game and the Steelers must beat Cleveland.)
It would be nice to beat the Browns and keep them out of the playoffs.
But for the Steelers, none of that outweighs the risk of using key players in a mostly meaningless game, especially their 38-year-old quarterback.
Roethlisberger can't play at Cleveland. Put Roethlisberger and anyone else the Steelers can't afford to lose in street clothes: Cam Heyward, T.J. Watt, David DeCastro, Maurkice Pouncey...you know the names.
The game at Cleveland would still be fun.
The Browns have to win to make the playoffs. For the Steelers, it's a free roll.
Imagine Mason Rudolph ending Myles Garrett's season. It would be more glorious than D-Day. If the New York Jets can beat Cleveland, so can Rudolph.
This isn't subject to debate. If Roethlisberger wants to play, Coach Mike Tomlin must say no. The risk is too great, the reward minimal.
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