PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The players went through one more practice Friday in anticipation of the AFC Championship game Sunday at Heinz Field.
Aaron Smith did not take part in that practice; so, even though the team hasn’t officially ruled him out of the game, Smith will not play.
However, Troy Polamalu was back in pads. He was a full participant, and head coach Mike Tomlin confirmed that he will be on the field.
As for the rest of the team, Friday’s practice was just one more chance to prepare for Sunday’s big game.
We’re getting down to crunch time before the AFC Championship game, and each Steelers player is seems to be handling it differently. On the one hand, you have the intense.
“I’m starting to get nervous, starting to get a little anxious,” said Brett Keisel, Steelers defensive end. “But this is what you fight for – to get in this position. We’re one game away.”
And on the other, you have Ryan Clark.
“I’m going to my son’s basketball game tomorrow,” he said after Friday’s practice.
Then, somewhere in the middle you have about 50 others, including Hines Ward, who has won a conference title at Heinz Field against Baltimore and lost one there years ago against New England.
“I was here when we lost to the Patriots. I stayed out there for 10 minutes, watching them celebrate on our field. It was the worst feeling ever,” said Ward. “So, I don’t want to go through that and have that feeling again.”
While they don’t have to worry about the Patriots this year, they will have to face the team that took them out.
Meanwhile, other than practice, it was another quiet day Friday at Steelers headquarters on the South Side.
That’s especially true when you compare it to all the trash talking that was going on last week between the Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens and the Jets and the Patriots.
“It’s a big difference from what was going on up there last week,” said Keisel. “I think they’re maybe trying to lull us to sleep.”
This week, all the insults have been replaced by praise and even love and respect. Surely, this has to be a conscious decision by Jets head coach Rex Ryan, who normally has the loudest mouth of them all.
“I think they’re laying it on kind of thick though,” added Clark. “I think they’re doing a little bit of over acting.”
“I haven’t been concerned with what’s come out of their camp or what’s not come out of their camp. I think everybody in our camp has that same mentality. We prepare and then we ultimately go out and play,” said Tomlin. “We respect all our opponents, but we always take a Steelers versus Steelers mentality in terms of trying to play to the best of our abilities.”