Second verse, same as the first

Tight end Nick Vannett has only played one game for the Steelers and has never played against the Ravens.

But he's nonetheless up to speed on what he'll be knee deep in on Sunday.

"From our first team meeting today, (head coach) Mike Tomlin made it a big emphasis on how big the rivalry is and how it's going to be a bloodbath," Vannett offered after practice today. "It's just going to be a very physical game, that's what we expect.

"I'm excited to be a part of it. I can't wait to prepare myself for it and can't wait to just play hard and get a win, 'cause it's gonna be big."

The Steelers announced they'd traded for Vannett, a 6-foot-6, 261-pound, fourth-year pro, on Sept. 24.

He played 51 snaps in Monday night's 27-3 victory over Cincinnati (44 on offense and seven on special teams).

Vannett caught two passes for 28 yards against the Bengals and in the process established a penchant for assimilating quickly.

Sunday's game against the Ravens will be a new experience, and more of the same.

"With the Seahawks and Rams, it's been a big rivalry the last few years, ever since they became pretty good," Vannett said. "Those have been very physical games.

"And they kind of run a similar defense to how the Ravens run, so I kinda expect it to be very similar to how it was out there."

Vannett's second week with the Steelers has been playing out a lot like his first.

He's been alternating between living in a hotel within walking distance of the Steelers' practice facility and living in his playbook.

"There's gonna be some new plays this week," Vannett said. "In some ways, it's gonna be pretty similar to last week. I know the formations, I know where to line up now; that was all new to me last week, so I kinda got a little head start on that.

"But it's gonna be pretty similar. We're gonna throw in some new plays that I've never heard of. Like today, I think half the plays I didn't even know, or it was the first time i've heard of it. It's kinda like Part II, the same week. It's like Groundhog Day, here we go again."

Tight end Vance McDonald (shoulder) didn't practice today, but Tomlin said on Tuesday the Steelers were "hopeful" regarding McDonald potentially participating against the Ravens (inside linebacker Vince Williams, hamstring, and outside linebacker Anthony Chickillo, foot, were also in that category).

Vannett is already anticipating teaming up with McDonald at tight end eventually, perhaps as soon as Sunday.

"I think it's gonna be incredible," Vannett said. "I don't know what his status is yet, but I think we're two very exciting players and we can do a lot. It just gives the offensive coordinator plenty of options. You have both of us on the field, it just creates so many mismatch problems in the run game and in the pass game.

"I think it would be real exciting for the offense."

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