By Teresa Varley
It's only one game, one of 16 that all have the same importance. That is something that every Steelers player is well aware of. That is something they keep telling themselves.
"It's important but you have to keep things in perspective," said wide receiver Hines Ward. "It's just one game of a 16-game regular season."
But no matter how much they repeat that, no matter how many times it's told to them, there is no denying that Thursday's game against the Tennessee Titans at Heinz Field is big.
It's the first game of the NFL season. It's on national television, the only game that night. And it's against a team that defeated them last year.
"Everybody is going to be watching," said Ward. "It's the opening game, prime time and playing a great opponent that beat us at their place last time. The guys are excited about it and ready to kick off the season.
"We like to pride ourselves on winning at home. If we take care of business at home and are fortunate to steal some games on the road, we will give ourselves an opportunity to win our division."
There is nothing the players would like more than to come out of the gate strong. Winning the first game of the season doesn't dictate how the season will play out, but it does give teams confidence and sends a message.
"It's very important to come out and start fast," said linebacker James Farrior. "We want to get off to a good start. We had a great training camp. It's time to put the hard work we put into training camp out there on the field."
The Steelers have won their season-opener the last six years, but results have varied with the team winning the Super Bowl twice during that time frame while also missing the playoffs.
"The first game sets the tempo for the entire year," said defensive end Brett Keisel. "We want to start strong as much as we want to finish strong. We know we are starting off the year with the game to kick off the whole season. Everybody is going to be watching. It's going to be a very emotional game. We are excited to get it here."