Cowher's troops home for holiday
Pittsburgh's coach gave out a two-day break after Monday's emotional win.
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Pittsburgh Steelers are home for Christmas, and the question is whether it will serve to motivate the Baltimore Ravens.
With the Steelers (9-5-1) only hours removed from an emotional Monday night victory over Tampa Bay, coach Bill Cowher did not hold a team meeting Tuesday and also called off practice today, Christmas Day.
NFL teams normally hold their heaviest workouts for a Sunday game on Wednesday and Thursday, but the Steelers won't even begin preparing for their home game against the Ravens (7-8) until Thursday.
Cowher is aware a two-day holiday break, while commonplace in the workday world, is virtually unprecedented in the NFL during the last week of the regular season.
And it's not as if the Ravens' game is meaningless to the AFC North champion Steelers, who still have an outside shot at a first-round playoff bye.
"I don't know if we've ever done that," Cowher said Tuesday. "I said to the players, '[I'll see you at] 10 a.m. on Christmas, and they were looking at noon. But, as I walking away, I said, 'Let's come in Thursday.'
"They earned it, they need a couple of days off to get all the emotion out and come back Thursday with a clear mind."
Coaches are planning
While the players are off, the coaches will put in their usual pregame preparation.
"We'll be ready to play on Sunday," Cowher said. "The players earned that [day off] and they appreciated it. It's a long year, for coaches, too, so maybe they can spend Christmas [and] Christmas Eve with their families.
"It won't distract us. We will be fine on Sunday, trust me."
The Ravens' chances of winning the division ended with their 14-13 loss at home Sunday to Cleveland, and they retain only a mathematical chance of sneaking into the AFC playoffs as a wild card.
Regardless, the Ravens may not be officially eliminated when kickoff arrives Sunday, and there is a chance Cowher's holiday break may be viewed by them as a show of disrespect.
Cowher suggested he would have practiced today if the Steelers weren't playing a division team they already know well. The teams will be playing for the fifth time in two seasons, counting a divisional playoff game in Pittsburgh last season.