PITTSBURGH (11-6) at NEW ENGLAND (11-5)
9:30 a.m., Channel 4
Rain and strong winds are forecast for Foxboro, Mass. Bad news for Patriot fans who have waited 18 years to get a home playoff game and might like to see it without getting pneumonia. Worse for those fans if the elements prove to favor the Steelers. That would certainly appear to be the case as far as the wind is concerned since New England's hopes will probably ride on the right arm of quarterback Drew Bledsoe. The Steelers, on the other hand, are more effective staying on the ground. But a rain-soaked field could make it extremely difficult for running back Jerome Bettis, who is already listed as 50-50 because of a bad groin pull. Pittsburgh also must depend on its strong pass rush to nullify Bledsoe, though defensive end Brentson Buckner is questionable because of an injured ankle, and the sacks could be difficult to come by if Chad Brown and company have to pick their way around mudholes.
--Say what: The Steelers have won four Super Bowls. The Patriots have won only four playoff games in their 36 years of existence. This is Pittsburgh Coach Bill Cowher's fifth season and he has led his Steelers to the playoffs in each of those years, including a trip to last year's Super Bowl. This is New England's second trip to the playoffs in Bill Parcells' four years as coach. But there are a few numbers that favor New England. Though 8-1 at home this season, including last week's playoff victory over the Indianapolis Colts, the Steelers were 3-5 on the road, and were 2-3 on natural grass, the surface they'll find at Foxboro.