By Teresa Varley
The Steelers began preparation in earnest on Monday for their AFC Divisional Playoff game against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday at Heinz Field.
But even though they didn't know their opponent, the team got in plenty of good work during three days of practice during their bye last week.
Instead of preparing for a different potential opponent each day, the Steelers focused on working on sharpening their own skills, something many players welcomed.
"It lets you prepare on yourself, on your weaknesses," said cornerback Deshea Townsend. "Any time you allow yourself to get better it makes you a better player and a better team."
Going into the wild card weekend the Steelers had the potential of playing the Miami Dolphins, Indianapolis Colts or the Chargers. The Chargers defeated the Colts and the Baltimore Ravens eliminated the Dolphins, sending San Diego to Pittsburgh.
"You can't really prepare to play three different teams," said safety Ryan Clark. "You can't watch film on three different teams. You can't run three different team's plays. It was about us last week. That's what the guys were out there focusing on and it was a good approach."
The individual work, with each position spending time with their coaches, was reminiscent in some ways of training camp when the team was not preparing for a given opponent.
"Individually we walked through some things that were bothering us," said linebacker Larry Foote. "We sharpened our own sword."
And despite having the number one ranked defense in the NFL, Foote and his teammates felt there was plenty of work to be done last week.
"You don't play perfect," said Foote. "There are a lot of mistakes we make that we can eliminate including mistakes that we make mentally. We have to keep improving on things we are doing well, but the stuff we aren't doing well we have to address it and figure it out. "
One thing that head coach Mike Tomlin made sure of during the three days of practice was that the competitive fire kept burning. That wasn't a problem.
"If you watched practice it was pretty competitive out there," said defensive end Chris Hoke. "We have had competitive periods, two minute drills, third downs. It was good for all of us."