Defensive end Stephon Tuitt maintained he has been preparing every week this season as he intends to prepare this week, as if he'd be starting on Sunday.
But that said, this isn't just another week or just another Sunday coming up for Tuitt or for the Steelers.
"Things have changed," the second-round pick from Notre Dame observed.
The Steelers are preparing for a showdown in Cincinnati, the first of two critical meetings with the AFC North Division leading Bengals. And the Steelers are doing so minus veteran defensive end Brett Keisel, who landed on the injured-reserve list in the wake of a triceps injury suffered last Sunday against New Orleans.
Coach Mike Tomlin already has publicly speculated about what the loss of Keisel might mean for Tuitt.
"I feel like he's had some positive improvements on the practice field over the course of this football season and really not a lot of opportunity to show it," Tomlin said. "One man's misfortune is another man's opportunity. The injury to Brett Keisel I think is going to provide a platform for (Tuitt) to display that improvement, and I look forward to him doing it."
Tuitt wound up playing one half of the defensive snaps against New Orleans, a season-high 28. His expectation is he'll get even more work against the Bengals, starting with the first defensive snap along with the rest of the starters.
"Yeah, I'm anticipating it," Tuitt said. "And I already know Coach (John) Mitchell is going to challenge me this week to make sure I'm ready to do my assignment and do the things I have to do within this defense.
"I'm still a rookie, but at the same time I feel more mature. I understand this defense a lot more, and I'm getting better every day and every week."
Photos from the last regular season game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals.
Tuitt has produced two solo tackles, four assisted tackles and a quarterback pressure in his first 12 NFL games. The Bengals game looms as an opportunity, for Tuitt and for the Steelers.
"I am excited," Tuitt admitted. "I'm trying to keep my composure around 'Coach Mitch' but I am excited. I'm not gonna lie. But at the same time, I still have a job to do and I still have to do my job exceptionally well.
"This is what it comes down to. You get drafted to come to the NFL to be able to show what your have. I have these guys' backs and they have mine, and I'm going to go out there and give them everything I have every snap.
"Right now I'm doing what I do every week, getting ready, preparing to have a great week of practice to be able to be prepared for the game this weekend. How I do this week in practice is really going to determine how I feel this weekend. It's just about preparing and knowing I'm ready."