William Gay is no stranger to playing in an AFC Championship Game.
He was part of a Steelers team that beat the Baltimore Ravens, 23-14, in the 2008 AFC Championship Game, which sent the Steelers on to win Super Bowl XLIII.
In the 2010 AFC Championship Game he returned a fumble 19 yards for a touchdown in the win over the New York Jets.
He understands what it takes to play at this level, but he also understands what the young players are going through, players who are feeling the excitement of their first championship game.
"You let them go through it," said Gay. "Myself, Ben (Roethlisberger), Deebo (William Gay), Greg Warren, LT (Ryan Shazier), even Ramon (Forster) and a couple of guys that were on the 2010 team. Everybody is going to have those jitters because this is a big moment.
"You just use that energy in a positive light. You let that energy ignite you, not scare you."
While the jitters might be there for the first few snaps, once everyone settles down, it's a game like any other.
"It's a game that the score is going to be big, but during the time between those white lines, it's just football," said Gay. "You have to get back to your rules of trying to out-execute your opponent."
The Steelers have maintained a business as usual approach all week, handling things the way they have every other week of the season. But Gay acknowledged that there is a different feel, one that you would expect at this time of the year.
"The closer you get to this thing, everybody locks in," said Gay. "You can see it. When you can see your goal, and it's within arm's reach, everybody turns up a little bit more. Whether you've never been this far before, or you have been, you can almost touch your goals. You don't want to get to where you can touch the cookie jar, but then can't get in it. You want to do everything you can to advance."
It won't be easy. Tom Brady has caused headaches for the Steelers in the past. He has a 9-2 record against the Steelers, has thrown 26 touchdowns with only three interceptions.
So what is the key against him?
"You have to have God on your side," said Gay with a smile. "It's going to come down to which team is going to perform the best on Sunday and who makes the least mistakes. That's what it's going to boil down to. It's going to be a great game. I think we are going to put on a show for the fans, both the Patriots and us. May the best man win, but I hope we come out on top."
What They Said:
While Tom Brady is the first name people mention when talking about the Patriots, there is obviously a lot more the Steelers will have to contend with, from the receivers, the running game, the secondary, and the list can go on.
Several players gave their take on the Patriots and the challenges they present.
The Steelers prepare for the AFC Championship matchup against the New England Patriots.
Stephon Tuitt on the Patriots' receivers:
"As a group they're a very productive unit. They are a group who does all the little things well. They block, they run well after the catch, they get open versus man and zone coverage. They're a smart, intelligent group. So we know that we're going to be in for a fight. It's going to be a lot of hard work trying to cover these guys, especially for extended periods of time."
Eli Rogers on the Patriots' secondary:
"Those guys finish through the ball. Whether it's playing the hands or playing the ball, they finish well. So we'll have to do a good job at finishing."
Maurkice Pouncey on playing in New England:
"It's going to be exciting. The type of game it is, the type of players they have and that we have. It's what football's all about to get into these big-time games and we'll see how it turns out."
Jesse James on how much the Patriots have changed since the two teams met in Week 7 of the season:
"We're both different teams. That was pretty early in the year. We're a better team than we were then and so are they. They're a team that only lost two games in 17 games. So they're a great team. They'll bring a lot at us and we'll be ready for it."