PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher would probably like to switch off every TV set accessible to his players, click off every radio they can hear, swipe the newspapers off their driveways.

The Steelers went into each of their last three games knowing any loss would likely keep them out of the playoffs. They responded by winning all three, outscoring the Bears, Vikings and Browns by a combined 80-12.

That’s why Cowher wants the Steelers (10-5) going into Sunday’s home game against the Detroit Lions (5-10) with the same mindset, even though they could have their 10th playoff appearance in 14 seasons under him wrapped up by then.

One reason Cowher doesn’t want any diversion from this it’s-all-up-to-us thinking is it will be the same approach they must take in the playoffs, especially since they can be only the No. 6 team in the AFC and thus would play every game on the road.

“It is an opportunity to utilize this as a home playoff game,” Cowher said yesterday. “There will be no talk whatsoever about any other scenario.”

However, there are other scenarios to get the Steelers into the postseason even if they lose to Detroit. A San Diego victory over the Denver Broncos on Saturday night puts them in, and so would a Cincinnati victory over Kansas City on Sunday — regardless of what the Steelers do.

Those are the very words Cowher doesn’t want his players hearing, seeing or speaking.

“I think it’s very important you don’t get caught up in all the ’what if’ scenarios,” Cowher said. “I think our football team needs to prepare mentally to play this football game like it’s a home playoff game. The fact is if we don’t win, we may not go anywhere. If you get caught up, deviate from that focus and start looking at other scenarios, you start cluttering your mind with things that are very, very dangerous.”

However, should the Chargers win, Cowher will be faced with exactly the problem the Colts (13-2) have wrestled with since clinching home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. Does he rest his key players to keep them healthy or does he let his starters play most of the way to keep them sharp?

Cowher’s decision could be influenced by the fact that the Steelers will play the weekend of Jan. 7-8 if they do make the playoffs. Last season, they had a week off between the end of the season and their first playoff game, yet Cowher played his regulars little in a season-ending 29-24 win at Buffalo.

“Whatever happens happens, and you kind of deal with the circumstances that you are dealt with,” Cowher said. “I think, at this point, that is the mindset that we have to have and we will deal with whatever decisions or other choices we have at that time. I am not going to waste any time thinking about that or talking about that.”

With the Steelers healthier and playing better than they have all season — their defense has allowed one touchdown in three games — Cowher doesn’t think there will be a letdown Sunday, regardless of the circumstances.

“To sit there and overlook that opportunity we have, that won’t happen,” he said. “Trust me.”

Cowher wouldn’t say if running back Jerome Bettis will be introduced Sunday. This could be Bettis’ last home game if he retires as he has indicated.

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