By Teresa Varley
Every game means pressure for an NFL player, but the playoffs bring added pressure because there is no tomorrow if you don't win.
"It's totally different. It's one and done," said cornerback Ike Taylor. "It's a tournament with single-game elimination. There is no next week. You win you stay in, you lose you go home. That's the mentality guys are going to have to come out and play with."
Because of the urgency of each game players are putting extra time in, whether it be watching film, studying the playbook or just getting an extra snap or two at practice.
"It's one game at a time," said defensive end Brett Keisel. "You know you have to play it one game at a time because there might not be a next one. There might be more sense of urgency, maybe a bit more film study. Everyone is trying to do that much more to try and win the game."
The Steelers will be in a role they are unfamiliar with when they host the Jaguars at Heinz Field on Saturday night – the role of underdog.
The Jaguars, who defeated the Steelers 29-22 at Heinz Field on December 16, are favored and it's something that has some of the players fired up.
"It is the last chance we get to prove what type of team we have in front of our fans," said Keisel. "It is the only playoff game we are going to have at home, so there is definitely some added incentive there."
Wide receiver Hines Ward said he is used to the role as he feels the Steelers are a team that many people don't give a chance in the strong AFC.
"We've always been underdogs," said Ward. "We've kind of been flying under the radar. We don't feel like we're underdogs. We just have to go out there and play better than we did the last time. They have a great team, there's no quest about it, but we didn't play good overall as a unit. We just have to play better."
And what does Coach Mike Tomlin thing about the underdog role? He doesn't give it a second thought.
"I'm not necessarily concerned about predictions and being in that position," said Tomlin. "I'm excited about being in the playoffs and having the opportunity to pursue our ultimate goal. That of course starts with our play this week. We are excited about that again. Back in the summer everybody has the dream about being in this position. You start with 32 different teams in 32 different cities and now we are at 12. We are one of the 12. We don't take that lightly. At the same time we know that we have some work to do if we want to continue to move forward."
The Steelers had seven players miss practice on Wednesday, including safety Troy Polamalu (knee), cornerback Deshea Townsend (foot) and Ward (knee). Also missing were cornerback Bryant McFadden (ankle), wide receiver Willie Reid (shoulder), return specialist Allen Rossum (hamstring) and tackle Marvel Smith (out with a back injury).
Tomlin did not have any further updates on the players after practice.
"We'll know more (Thursday)," he said. "(Wednesday) was a big rehab day for some of those guys we held out of practice like Bryant McFadden, Troy, Willie Reid, Allen Rossum, Deshea Townsend and Hines Ward. Those guys aggressively attacked rehab and we will see where they are tomorrow and more forward from there."