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fordfixer
08-29-2010, 12:21 AM
Steelers alter preseason approach
By Mark Kaboly, TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Sunday, August 29, 2010
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 96958.html (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_696958.html)

The third preseason game historically is when the starters get the most playing time before the regular season begins a dress rehearsal, if you will.

Head coach Mike Tomlin felt that same way during his first three years as the Steelers' coach. But that has all changed, and the dress rehearsal has become the real thing.

Tomlin and the Steelers have gone about their business in a very different way this week leading up to today's third preseason game. Pittsburgh visits the Denver Broncos at 8 tonight at Invesco Field.

"This (was) a simulation-type week," Tomlin said.

For the first time, the Steelers approached a preseason game exactly like they would if it was a regular-season game, with the hopes of getting the team in more of a meaningful football mode.

"It doesn't even feel like it is training camp," receiver Hines Ward said. "Taking this approach really helps the younger guys, and for the veteran guys to get back into routine and get prepared for the week."

This was the first week the Steelers have been at their training facility since breaking training camp.

"It is nice to be able to come back and work here and try to get into the rhythm of what it is going to be like on a daily basis here for a lot of these guys," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said.

In the past, the Steelers were still in training-camp mode, even though they returned to their South Side facility.

But with the unique situation of the team playing a Sunday night road game, it afforded Tomlin to treat the week like a regular-season week.

"Mike Tomlin has done a good job of treating this like a game week, and we are doing all the game week preparations Wednesday through Sunday," linebacker James Farrior said. "Everything is going to be like it is a normal game. I don't think we have ever done (preparation) this extensive, but I think it prepares you and gets you mentally focused on what we are going to be doing throughout the season."

A year ago, Tomlin had his team practice Tuesday through Friday before the third preseason game against Buffalo. In 2008, the Steelers adhered to the same schedule before a road game at Minnesota. During Tomlin's first year the team played five preseason games, and the schedule was similar before the second-to-last preseason game against the Eagles at Heinz Field.

Everything done this week will be done in Week 2 when the Steelers travel to Tennessee for their first regular-season road game the team meetings on Monday; players' day off on Tuesday; the practice schedule Wednesday through Friday; a morning walkthrough on Saturday; and the travel itinerary Saturday afternoon.

"It is helping me a whole bunch," rookie receiver Emmanuel Sanders said. "Now I know when the regular season comes that we aren't going to start for ground zero. We are going to be comfortable and go into the regular season not thinking about anything and accustomed to everything."

With the team not scheduled to get back into town until 5 a.m. Monday morning and with the final preseason game scheduled a mere 86 hours later, today's game will indeed be the final tune-up before the season opener against Atlanta on Sept. 12.

It will probably be the last time quarterback Byron Leftwich sees game action before starting the regular season.

"As players, you want to play the whole game," Leftwich said. "Everybody wants to play the whole game, but you can't read too much into it. I have been on teams that we have been horrible those third games and had a pretty good year. I have been on teams where we were perfect in that third game and we were pretty bad."

Tomlin has always put a big emphasis on the second-to-last preseason game. He has never lost one in his three years as coach.

"It is very important to go out and have a very good showing," Farrior said. "It is going to be the game we play the most. We want to go out there and play like we are playing a real game."

However ...

"We all still know it is preseason, but this is the one that really counts," Farrior said. "Even though it is going to be a dress rehearsal for the real season, it really doesn't count and you have to walk that thin line. You can't put too much into it because it is still preseason."