PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers are in the playoffs for the 10th time in 14 seasons under coach Bill Cowher, and each year the talk is the same: Win with their running game and their defense.
Move the chains. Control the clock. Keep the ball away from the opposing offense. Wear down the defense. Make sure to not put A) Neil O'Donnell; B) Kordell Stewart; or C) Ben Roethlisberger into a situation where he must throw out of desperation to win.
''That is just our personality as a team," Cowher said. ''We're a football team that tries to establish the run. We're not afraid to throw it, but I think the biggest thing is to take care of the ball."
Which must make Roethlisberger ask: When will it be my turn to take care of it?
The Steelers' run-till-we-drop philosophy has helped them win their opening playoff game the last seven trips to the postseason. They have outrushed opponents in all seven games by margins such as 238-55, 231-41, and 154-22.
There was another common thread in those games: Each victory came when the Steelers were the higher-seeded team playing at home. They won't have either of those advantages today against AFC North rival Cincinnati, which hasn't been to the playoffs since 1990.
The Steelers did exactly what they wanted when they visited Cincinnati Oct. 23, outrushing the Bengals, 221-91, behind Willie Parker's 131 yards and Jerome Bettis's 56 yards while winning, 27-13. But that was the regular season, and every Steelers player agrees the playoffs are different.
''My first playoff game, I almost threw up," wide receiver Hines Ward said. ''You don't realize how magnified every play is. . . . Sometimes, the first time you've been there, it doesn't hit you until it's a little too late."
That's why Ward, among others, is wondering if this is the week the Steelers might have to open up the offense. The Bengals have allowed 74 points in losing their last two games, and their defense is the worst among the 12 playoff teams in yardage (338) and points (21.9) allowed per game.
''We may not be a passing team, but if they keep putting eight or nine in the box and we're not getting anything done, then you have to pass the ball," Ward said. ''You pay the quarterback big money. You pay the receivers to make big plays. You have to go out and use them."
Still, wide receiver Antwaan Randle El has more punt return TDs (2) than TD catches (1). Cedrick Wilson, signed after big-play threat Plaxico Burress went to the Giants, didn't have a TD catch all season.