Based on the way the two fan bases are reacting to the news that James Harrison was signed by New England Tuesday, it seems like the Steelers and Patriots are playing again.
Even the Steelers' longest-tenured player wanted to know if Harrison, who was released by the Steelers Saturday, would be passing on valuable information to Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.
"My wife and I were talking about it last night," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said Wednesday. "She was asking me if he knew our no-huddle stuff.
"I said I don't think he knows a lot of it. I'm sure he's heard some of the same things for a lot of years now, so maybe some of it. But that's a long way off."
The Steelers and Patriots cannot meet in the playoffs until the AFC Championship Game. They have clinched one of the top two seeds and a first-round bye.
It will be one juicy storyline if it comes to pass. Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey accused Harrison of forcing his way out of Pittsburgh in order to sign with the Patriots.
"He wanted that," Pouncey said. "It wasn't like the team said, 'We're going to let go of James Harrison.' James Harrison wanted that. ... Yeah, it's funny to read the stories like, it's something that he wanted to do, you know what I'm saying? It's not like they got together and said, 'Oh, we're going to go cut James.' No, that's not what happened. And he needs to come out and admit that."
But Roethlisberger said there is some reason for concern if the matchup does materialize. He said the Steelers had to change some things when they traded receiver Sammie Coates to the Browns right before the start of the regular season.
They played the season opener in Cleveland in September.
"The first time we played Cleveland, I think Sammie Coates had just been picked up by them," Roethlisberger said. "That obviously was a big concern of ours, him knowing our offense."
Belichick is famous for signing players just so he can pick their brains on the tendencies of their former employers. It would be up to Harrison as to how much information he provides.
"That's on James," Roethlisberger said. "If they want to ask him for every single piece of information he has, then that's what people do in this league. I'm not worried about it. We don't play them this week. We don't play them next week. We'll see."
Even though most NFL analysts have been pointing to a Steelers-Patriots matchup in the AFC Championship Game since the summer, the top two seeds don't meet in the title game all that often.
Since the NFL went to its current playoff format in 2002, the first year six teams from each conference made the playoffs, the top two seeds met in the AFC title game five times in that 15-year stretch.
But if it does, it will be great theater.
SERIES HISTORY: 130th regular-season meeting. Steelers lead series, 71-58, and have won the nine of the last 10 meetings. The Steelers beat the Browns, 21-18, in the opening game of the season in Cleveland. They haven't lost to the Browns at home since October of 2003. The Steelers and Browns have met twice in the playoffs, with the Steelers winning both meetings. The Steelers beat the Browns in an AFC wild-card game after the 2002 season and in an AFC divisional round game after the 1994 season.
--Head coach Mike Tomlin had cornerback Joe Haden follow Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins all over the field Monday, and Haden held Hopkins to 65 receiving yards. The Texans completed only eight passes against the Steelers, and Haden was a big reason why. He had missed the previous five games with a fractured fibula.
"I thought getting Joe Haden back and the way that he was participating was exciting for us," Tomlin said. "Obviously, his contributions were big for us and they were big in that football game. We allowed him to travel with Hopkins to minimize his impact on the game, and largely I thought he did a great job particularly for being his first time back."
The Steelers hadn't allowed any of their corners to follow other team's top receivers very often this season, but it does lead to the question of whether Haden will follow top receivers in the playoffs.
Tomlin said there are various factors that go into the decision to let one corner cover another team's best receiver one-on-one.
"It's really a lot of things, the matchup, the matchup of the other guys," Tomlin said. "Largely how we choose to play that particular day, zone, man, one-high, two-high safeties, it's a lot of variables in the equation."
--The Steelers have 50 sacks through 15 games and can break the franchise record for sacks in a season by getting six in the regular-season finale against the Browns. The record of 55 was established in 1994 and matched in 2001.
The Steelers have shown a great amount of versatility in getting to opposing quarterbacks. Against the Texans, cornerback Mike Hilton became the first cornerback in NFL history to record three sacks in a game since the sack became an official statistic in 1982.
Defensive end Cameron Heyward leads the team with 12 sacks as mostly an interior pass rusher, and inside linebacker Vince Williams has seven sacks.
"I think it's our commitment to everyone being valuable in that area," head coach Mike Tomlin said. "Sometimes, it's the interior defensive line, sometimes the perimeter defensive line, sometimes the linebackers, sometimes it's members of the secondary like it was with Mike Hilton.
"I think that if you're going to be a group that is committed to applying pressure on the quarterback, you have to be willing and capable of it coming from any and all areas and that's something that we really focus on."
NOTES: LG Ramon Foster, who missed the Texans game with a concussion, went through a full practice Wednesday. ... CB Coty Sensabaugh, who missed the Texans game with a shoulder injury, went through a full practice Wednesday. ... WR Antonio Brown did not practice because of his calf injury. He already has been ruled out of the Cleveland game. ... C Maurkice Pouncey did not practice because of a hip injury.