By Teresa Varley
Players in the Steelers locker room know that not only do they have to win on Sunday when they host the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field, but they also need some help from other teams to keep their playoff hopes alive.
But don't expect them to be worrying about those other teams. They know the most important thing is getting the job done themselves.
"The only thing that we can control is the last two games that we have and everything else will just play itself out," said linebacker LaMarr Woodley. "Just take care of what you can control and not worry about anything else."
Safety Troy Polamalu did not practice on Wednesday, and when asked if he would practice at all the remainder of the week, didn't seem positive.
"I don't think so, but we'll see what Coach (Mike Tomlin) says," said Polamalu.
Polamalu also said he would like to practice for a full week before playing, but didn't rule out the possibility of playing on Sunday.
The Steelers have always been known as a running team, but as of late it's the passing game that has emerged as the team's primary offensive weapon.
"This offense is changing," said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. "It's not a run-first team anymore. And that's not a bad thing, it really isn't. We have two 1,000-yard receivers (Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes). It's a pretty fun thing.
"I've said that a thousand times, that the league evolves offensively and defensively. Offensively, it has evolved and you have to keep up with those teams, like Indianapolis and the Saints, teams like that, because if you don't you're going to be left behind."
Roethlisberger has been growing a mustache and during practice on Wednesday he wore a practice jersey with #14 and Anderson on the back. His reason was to honor quarterbacks coach Ken Anderson, who wore that number for the Cincinnati Bengals.
"It's a throwback game; wearing our throwbacks (uniforms), so a couple of us decided to go with the mustaches, the 70s/80s hair, for some of our idols," said Roethlisberger. "For me, it's Ken Anderson."
Even though he is joining the team late in the season, wide receiver Joey Galloway is happy to be wearing the black and gold.
"I grew up a Pittsburgh Steelers fan," said Galloway, who is from Bellaire, Ohio, about 45 minutes away from Pittsburgh. "Down that way everybody is a Steelers fan. My dad is a Steelers fan. My brothers are Steelers fans. It was only natural."
Galloway, who was originally drafted by the Seattle Seahawks with the eighth overall pick in the first round in 1995, especially admired some former Steelers wide receivers.
"I would say Lynn Swann and John Stallworth," said Galloway of his favorite players. "I couldn't wait to get home from church because I knew it was Steelers game time. I would last about a quarter or so before I would go outside and start throwing the football around, put on my Lynn Swann jersey and start running around. I have been a fan forever."
Long snapper Jared Retkofsky played with the New York Sentinels of the United Football League this year, but when he was signed he was working for a moving company, the same thing he was doing last year when the team signed him.
"I went back to doing all of the same stuff I was doing before I got signed the first time," said Retkofsky. "I figured if I went back to all of that maybe it would happen again and it did."
Retkofsky has been staying prepared in case he did get a call from a team, but he admits he had not been watching the Steelers play.
"It was hard to watch the games," said Retkofsky. "I had such a bond with all of the guys here and won the Super Bowl and you can't be there. It was hard to watch the Steelers play and not be a part of it."
In the spirit of the holiday season, the Steelers will hold the annual collection for the Children's Hospital Free Care Fund during pregame. Volunteers in Children's Hospital vests will be collecting inside Gates A and B, on the West Concourse and in the Coca-Cola Great Hall. The Free Care Fund helps Children's continue its pledge that no child in the region will be denied medical care because of his or her family's lack of health insurance or inability to pay.
The Steelers will practice on Christmas Day, but they will adjust their schedule so players can spend the morning with their children opening gifts.