The Sports Xchange, Published December 20 2013
Green Bay's Rodgers ruled out for crucial game against SteelersHead coach Mike McCarthy says the Green Bay Packers are in the semifinals of the makeshift tournament that is the race to the finish for the NFC North title.
Green Bay will have to wait until at least the championship bout to have its slugger ready for action.
Not that McCarthy is going to allow his players to look ahead to a potentially juicy showdown with the rival Bears in Chicago to end the regular season Dec. 29.
To have any shot of coming out of seemingly nowhere to play for a third straight division title, the Packers probably have to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday at Lambeau Field.
"It's a game we have to have," McCarthy said. "It's at home. It's against a physical football team. So, we're just kind of staying on target (with) what's right in front of us."
At 7-6-1 on the strength of one-point comeback victories the last two weeks, Green Bay trails division leader Chicago (8-6) by a half game. Both teams control their destiny, whereby winning their remaining two games would give one or the other the outright title.
The third-place Detroit Lions (7-7) are on the outside looking in for the time being after falling at home in the closing seconds to the Baltimore Ravens on Monday night. The Lions could overtake the two teams in front of them by winning their last two games and having the Bears and Packers lose once.
As close to a must-win scenario Green Bay has for the interconference matchup with the AFC North's Steelers (6-8) this weekend, it isn't necessarily going all in.
Star quarterback Aaron Rodgers still hasn't received medical clearance to resume playing. Rodgers, who has been sidelined since suffering a broken collarbone Nov. 4, was on a similar rehab, practice and evaluation schedule as he was last week, but was unable to get cleared by Friday.
"As an organization we do not feel like we are ready for him to play," McCarthy said. "He's not medically cleared, that's still the case today. As an organization, we don't think this is the right time for him to play."
McCarthy declined to provide details on the decision making process regarding Rodgers' return, or who the final decision ultimately falls to, offering only that he "absolutely" agrees with the decision.
"I think Aaron clearly wants to play. He's a very competitive man. He's done everything he can possibly due from his end of it," McCarthy said. "Everything was laid out on the table, and as an organization we're not ready for him to play."
Will Rodgers be available for the regular-season finale against Chicago?
"I'm not even talking about next week, I'm focused on winning the game Sunday," McCarthy said before leaving the podium.
SERIES HISTORY: 33rd regular-season meeting. Packers lead series, 18-14. Pittsburgh has won the last three regular-season encounters, including a 20-10 outcome in its most recent visit to Green Bay in 2005. The Packers, however, prevailed in the teams' last matchup - 31-25 in Super Bowl XLV on Feb. 6, 2011, at Cowboys Stadium in North Texas. It's the only time the championship-rich teams have met in the postseason.