By Teresa Varley
The 2008 season is behind the Steelers now and the focus is solely on a new year. But that doesn't mean their opponents look at it the same way. Every team wants to knock off the defending Super Bowl champions and the players are well aware that they are going to get everyone's 'A-game' this year.
"You know you are going to get everyone's best shot so you have to prepare like this could be your last game," said defensive end Brett Keisel. "You know every team wants to knock the champs off. You have to match that intensity or you are going to walk away a loser."
The Steelers have the advantage of a veteran-laden team that will be up for the challenges that others teams bring to the table.
"With the veteran guys we have on the team we approach every game like a playoff game," said wide receiver Hines Ward. "It prepares us for the long run. Last year having the hardest schedule helped prepare us mentally to go through the playoffs and make a run and win the Super Bowl. Playing week in and week out in a playoff atmosphere is only going to help us. We have to match their intensity."
The Titans know they will have their hands full on Thursday against the Steelers and one of the reasons is the consistency the Steelers are able to maintain.
"I think they return most of their starters. That's the Pittsburgh way," said Titans head coach Jeff Fisher. "You keep things intact and you quietly go about your business; you stay competitive. Every year, you do the right things and stay healthy – the Steelers have a chance to win a championship. I think it is certainly a compliment to the superstars at the top. The Rooney family has done a terrific job over the years."
Former Steelers wide receiver Nate Washington, who signed with the Titans this offseason, has kept an eye on his former team in the preseason and while he thinks it's still early, he does feel that the Steelers are going to be the team to beat this year.
"It all depends; it is early in the season so we don't really know," said Washington. "I have had an opportunity to watch them in the preseason and they look pretty good. I think for the most part they are going to be the team to beat because they are the defending champions. Everybody is going to want their shot (at the Steelers). We have to do a good job of coming out prepared (Thursday night)."
The Steelers finished the 2008 season with the number one ranked defense in the NFL. Keisel thinks that this year's group could be just as good, if not better.
"We have our opportunity," said Keisel. "In this league it's all about seizing opportunities. The chance for us to be great is out there, we just have to go and take. We have the personnel to do it and we have the confidence to do it. We just have to go do it."
Notes: Linebacker Lawrence Timmons did not practice on Monday.