Pouncey ready for next step

Rookie Maurkice Pouncey finished an impressive rookie season, earning a spot on the Pro Bowl roster and winning the Steelers rookie of the year honors.

Now he is ready to take the next step and play in his first NFL playoff game.

"I can't complain at all," said Pouncey. "My rookie year has been the best time of my life. It's been an honor for me. Things have been going my way and hopefully it will stay that way.

"I am blessed. I am with the Pittsburgh Steelers, one of the best teams in the NFL. I smile all of the time and tell my family how crazy it is that I am here."

Pouncey, who said he plans on watching the Colts-Jets game on Saturday before returning to practice on Sunday, said he is grateful for all of the help and advice he has received from the Steelers veterans this season.

"A lot of good things have happened to me and they tell you to stay humble and focus," said Pouncey. "It's a one-game season. Either you win or are at home, you have to focus and prepare the right way."

Aaron Smith attended practice this week, but his status for the Steelers AFC Divisional Playoff game isn't known. Smith has been out since the Miami game on Oct. 24 with a triceps injury and his teammates would love to see him on the field after going through a tough stretch.

"I feel for him very much," said fellow defensive end Brett Keisel. "He has been struck with a lot of adversity the last few years. He never complains. He just puts his nose to the grindstone and gets to work. What makes him the great player and teammate is everyone sees the work ethic he has and it resonates with all of us.

"I would love it if he played. I love seeing him in the huddle, I love watching him get ready to play."

If Smith can't play, he has been impressed with those who have stepped up on the line this season.

"Nick (Eason) and Ziggy (Hood) and the rest of the defensive line have been playing fantastic," said Smith. "I appreciate them carrying me this far. They have played well. They've done a good job all year."

Hood has stepped in to Smith's starting role, but Eason and Chris Hoke have also played a major role this year and it's a benefit to the defense.

"Those guys have done a great job stepping in and playing well," said Keisel. "It's only going to make us stronger going in to the post-season having that kind of depth."

If you would have told long snapper Greg Warren at the start of the season that he would finish the year working with a different kicker and punter, he probably would have looked at you like you were crazy.

But that has been the case as Jeff Reed was released and Dan Sepulveda suffered a season-ending knee injury. The Steelers signed kicker Shaun Suisham and punter Jeremy Kapinos and Warren has adjusted just fine to working with both of them.

"It's not been as big an adjustment as most people think," said Warren. "Both of these guys are so professional. Shaun is so good at what he does and Jeremy is very good at what he does. After a day we pretty much all just gelled together as if we had been working with each other all year."

Warren was placed on injured reserve to close out the last two seasons, with the 2008 season ending for him in late October and him missing out on the playoff run. This year, he is enjoying every minute of the post-season.

"I'm loving this," said Warren, who played in Super Bowl XL, but not Super Bowl XLIII. "My first year in the league we won the Super Bowl. It was such a blur I couldn't enjoy it like I wanted to. The second time we won the Super Bowl I was hurt. Now I can finally can sit back, and take a deep breath and realize how special it is to be in the playoffs and how hard it is to achieve this. It's awesome to be a part of it again."

Steelers veterans have been giving the rookies plenty of advice about what to expect for the playoffs and they are listening closely.

"It's going to be high intensity," said wide receiver Antonio Brown. "It's a win or go home type of environment. They want to make sure the young guys don't make any errors and we are on top of our game."

The rookies know there is no room for error in the playoffs and plan to be on top of their game.

"They tell us there are no such things as small plays in the playoffs," said Emmanuel Sanders. "I have never been there before, but I can see the attitude of the veterans has changed and they know what's at stake and it's helped us younger guys come along."

Safety Troy Polamalu's jersey was the top-selling one from April 1, 2010-January 2, 2011 on NFL.com. Wide receiver Hines Ward's jersey finished at 25th. Overall the Steelers ranked as the top team in jersey sales.

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