Defensive end Aaron Smith was at the Steelers practice facility on Wednesday, checking in after having surgery on his neck last week.
"Right now I feel good," said Smith. "It went well. Recovery, just one week out you are still trying to recover and get rid of that operation and the funk you go through."
Smith, who was placed on injured reserve on Oct. 22, had been bothered by the neck as far back as Super Bowl XLIII, but thought it was just the result of playing football and hitting. This year he injured his foot and while sidelined noticed the neck was still bothering him, making him realize there was a problem.
After an MRI it came to light he would have the cervical fusion surgery, which required going through the front part of the neck and using steel plates to fuse the discs together.
"I tell everybody I have had my bicep, rotator cuff, triceps done, you can work on my knees, my feet, but when you talk about your spine and neck you are talking about precious real estate," said Smith. "It changes everything with how you think about the surgery and the rehab."
Smith has had his ups and downs since surgery, but the worst part so far is one that will have a direct impact on him this Thanksgiving.
"The toughest part has been eating," said Smith. "It has not been enjoyable at all. It's getting better, but I don't even enjoy sitting down and eating right now.
"I am going to have to chop up turkey real small. With the surgery, Thanksgiving just snuck up on me."
While many people would look at nothing but the negative, Smith is thankful for all of the blessings he has in his life and isn't getting down.
"I have so much to be thankful for, my family, my wife and kids, the blessings I have," said Smith. "The opportunities I have in this life, playing for this organization, the team, and the friends I have had. I might be the most blessed person I know.
"I have gotten to play this game that I love for 13 years. This is what happens when you play this game. This game has given me the opportunity to do something I have loved since I was a little kid. It's provided for my family and my future. It's given me great friendships and relationships with people I will have for a lifetime. Injuries are part of it. Bad things happen to people all over the world. It doesn't mean you need to feel bad or have a pity party. You just have to move on to the next event."
Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians delivered a message in an offensive meeting on Wednesday, letting players know that it's the time of year to put any personal goals and things like Pro Bowl aspirations aside and strictly focus on winning and getting to the Super Bowl.
"For this team, for all of us, there are a lot of great players that have opportunities to put up big numbers and stats and things like that, but as coach touched on today for us to be a true Super Bowl contender people have to put their own personal goals on the back shelf for the betterment of the team," recounted quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. "Our ultimate goal is the Super Bowl. And like coach said if you're a team that's not doing very good record-wise and you're not a Super Bowl contender, then you're fighting for Pro Bowls. For teams that are Super Bowl contenders you shouldn't really care about the Pro Bowls, it should be more about Super Bowls. And I think we've got a locker room full of guys that just care about Super Bowls and that's what's most important, is sacrificing whatever it might be for the betterment of the team."
Roethlisberger said while the message didn't come up because there was a problem or anyone wasn't focused on the team goal, that it's never a bad message to deliver.
"I think it's good for our offense to hear because we've got a lot of young guys and guys that can put up huge numbers, and if they're starting to double guys like Mike Wallace, whose on pace for unbelievable numbers, he shouldn't get frustrated for the simple fact that if we're winning games," said Roethlisberger. "That's all that matters. And the same thing with Antonio Brown, look what he's done the last couple weeks. So I think it was a good message for all of us, for some guys to re-remember those things and for some guys to think about it."