By Teresa Varley
Nose tackle Chris Hoke will start on Monday night in place of Casey Hampton, who is sidelined with a groin injury. Hoke has started 12 games in his career, with 10 of them coming in the 2004 season when Hampton was injured.
Despite his experience, Hoke, an eight-year veteran, can't help but be fired up to make a start on Monday Night Football.
"This is what you live for," said Hoke. "You live to play on Monday Night Football and play in front of the whole country, friends you grew up with and your family. I am going to go out there and not get caught up in the hoopla. I just do what I need to do to win this ball game."
Any time a starter goes down you do lose something, especially when it is a Pro Bowler like Hampton, but Hoke has proven to be a viable back-up and feels like he can step up to the challenge.
"I am going to go out there and try to help this team," said Hoke. "I don't think I am going to be a problem for this defense. I think I can go out there and hold up the point in middle and let the linebackers roam and make their plays. I want to go out and get this win on Monday and keep on winning.
"I feel that I can go out there and get the job done. I can play in this defense and help this team win."
Hoke has been seeing plenty of action so far this season as head coach Mike Tomlin has frequently rotated defensive linemen in and out of the lineup to keep them fresh. When he needs a break expect Travis Kirschke to move over from end where he is filling in for the injured Brett Keisel, and Nick Eason and Orpheus Roye will provide relief on the ends.
"All of these guys on the line can play all three positions," said Hoke. "I am going to do my job. If I have to come out, Travis can go in and play. We are not worried about that. We all know each others' positions."
Troy Polamalu missed his second day of practice on Thursday with a quad contusion, but head coach Mike Tomlin expects him to return to the field on Friday.
"He needed a couple of days to get the quad contusion settled down," said Tomlin. "I think he is ready to go. I know he is chomping at the bit. Maybe it is just us exercising a little caution at this point, which is ok by me. He will practice tomorrow."
Cornerback Deshea Townsend returned to practice on Thursday, but it appears that Bryant McFadden will remain the starter on Monday night.
"He has performed at a high level and Deshea is not 100 percent ready to go," said Tomlin. "Right now we are just trying to see if Deshea is capable of playing for us at this point. So we are not questioning McFadden starting for us."