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Short week means mental focus a key

Posted Dec 6, 2011

The Steelers have a short week of practice to prepare for the Cleveland Browns on Thursday night and that means playing it smart. The team practiced on Tuesday, but did so without helmets and pads, making sure they take care of their bodies and focus on mental preparation.

“It’s more mental than anything,” said cornerback Ike Taylor. “It’s a lot of rest and you go heavy on tape because the week is so short. This week is more mental than any other week.”

Film study of the Browns was a key on Tuesday as this is the first time the two teams will meet this season.

“You have to take care of your body and be mentally sharp,” said cornerback Keenan Lewis. “It’s a team we haven’t seen and they are a good team. You have to get your body back and watch tape. Those are two of the most important things.”

Some players take up to two or three days following a game to recover physically from the last game, but for Taylor getting back on the field isn’t a problem, something he credits to the rigorous workout regime he has during the offseason.

“During the offseason I pride myself on the workouts I do,” said Taylor. “This is when it comes into play. Once you get out on that field, the physical part you don’t think about. It’s just playing.”

* * *

There are multiple reports that nose tackle Chris Hoke, who was not at practice on Tuesday, has to have surgery on his neck.

Hoke suffered a stinger against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Oct. 16 while starting for the injured Casey Hampton and has not played since.

“It’s a tough deal,” said Hampton. “It’s part of the game.

“Hoke is a good guy. He is good with the young guys. He is like having another coach out there, even with me. He is like my eyes seeing everything. He helps me out a lot. Me and Steve (McLendon) were talking about it today. It’s funny not having him around. He talks about stuff so much. When you do something or didn’t see something, you go to Hoke because you know he was looking at it. From that standpoint it’s been tough.”

Hampton said he talked to Hoke, but doesn’t know what his thoughts are as far as playing again.

“I don’t know. You will have to ask him,” said Hampton. “I know he will have to have surgery. I don’t know what’s going to happen with the whole situation.

“He is just down. Any time that type of situation happens you are going to be down. He will be okay. That is the type of person he is, he gets down but he always comes back.”

Hoke made the Steelers as an undrafted free agent in 2001, the same year Hampton was drafted in the first round.

“It’s unheard of for a guy to play that long,” said Hampton. “He is a good player, he showed his worth when he got in there and played well. That is why he was able to get in there.”

It’s been a tough season for the defensive line, already losing defensive end Aaron Smith for the year.

“I think playing in this league for a long time you see it so much you know it’s part of the job,” said Hampton of the injuries. “That is why you have to play every play like it’s your last one. You never know when it’s going to be that way.”

Hampton said in his case he is feeling good and doesn’t plan on his playing days ending any time soon.

“I am good,” said Hampton. “They are going to have to wheel me out in a wheelchair.”

* * *

Center Maurkice Pouncey, who lost 12 pounds after fighting a stomach virus, has gained eight pounds back and is feeling much better.

“I am fine,” said Pouncey. “I am feeling good. I still need to put some weight on, but I feel good.”

Pouncey said getting plenty of rest this week is a key for him with the short week.

“You have to get a lot of rest,” said Pouncey. “Then you have to take care of the stuff you can do here, the cold tank, hot tub, any kind of treatment. You have to do a better job of locking in because it’s a shorter week and you have to concentrate on the team you are playing.”

While the short week brings a challenge this week, it also allows for the players to get some much-needed rest after as they don’t have another game for 11 days when they play the San Francisco 49ers on Monday Night Football.

“It’s hard, but you have to do a good job of getting rest,” said Pouncey. “You have to do all of the things you do to get your body back. It’s hard but it’s good because after this game you get some rest.”

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