By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — Many Pittsburgh Steelers left their practice facility Sunday before they found out that they’ll face the Baltimore Ravens for a third time in an AFC division playoff matchup Saturday at 4:30 p.m. at Heinz Field.
But that didn’t matter anyway, because the Steelers held their most intense practice in more than a week. It ended when rookie cornerback Crezdon Butler knocked down wideout Mike Wallace after a completion down the left sideline.
“I throw it to Mike for 20 or so, and Crezdon Butler kind of gives him a little (shot) trying to knock the ball out,” Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. “He played hard, trying to get to the ball, and he knocked Mike down. Mike jumped up, because we didn’t have pads, and everybody kind of looked around.
“And that’s what it takes, 100 percent from both sides of the ball, but that’s what you want. You want to have that type of intensity on both sides of the ball. Sure, I wouldn’t want anything to happen to Mike, but I would have been more mad at Crezdon if he would have just let Mike catch it and done nothing. He’s a rookie, so I liked his intensity. But I’m also glad nobody got hurt.”
Wallace was OK, once he….
emerged from a hot shower, and said there wasn’t any ill will directed toward Butler.
“We’re all teammates,” Wallace said. “It’s all good. Just got a little tangled up at the end of practice. There’s no hard feelings. It did surprise me a little bit, but you can’t get mad at anybody for trying to get better.
“(This practice) was a little different from the regular season. You can feel it. It’s definitely different. The intensity’s gone up, and everyone?s real serious. It’s win or go home, and I’m excited about it.”
Roethlisberger said he was glad that Steelers coach Mike Tomlin scheduled a practice Sunday instead of the team staying off the field.
“If we would’ve come in and just had meetings, I don’t think it would’ve had the same effect,” Roethlisberger said. “I thought we had a great day of practice. I felt like our communication was good, and we went against the best defense in the league. So, I felt like it was a good start to a very good week for us. We have a good group of veterans on this team. I’ve said it for a while now.
“We’ve got a big group of veterans, a lot of good players, who know what it takes in the playoffs and are able to help the younger guys, those who don’t really know what it takes because they haven’t been here before. … We’ve got a bunch of good, young guys who know how to follow, to listen to our veterans, whatever position it is. So, they’ll see things pick up as this week goes on.”
Roethlisberger has not taken much time off since getting knocked around Dec. 5 at Baltimore, but he appeared to be as healthy as ever and certainly had a lot of zip on the ball during practice.
“I felt pretty good out there,” Roethlisberger said. “Obviously, the nose is what it is, and the foot’s doing better. Every week, it’s getting a little bit better, but it’s always good to just not to get beat up.
“Whether you’re resting or whatever during the week is one thing, but to not play over the weekend and not get beat up in a game makes it better.”
Even though they have three practice days remaining, the Steelers appear to be ready to take on the Ravens for a third time Saturday afternoon.
“At 12-4, I think we’re playoff ready,” Steelers wideout Hines Ward said. “We just have to continue to play good ball like we have all season. A lot of guys in this league already are home. It’s either win in the playoffs or go home, and we don’t want to go home. So, that’s what makes the playoffs more exciting.
“We can’t overreact because it?s the playoffs. We can’t get all tight. We’ve just got to turn up the intensity because, like I’ve said, each play gets magnified. Offensively, defensively and special teams, situational football, things like that. And I definitely think we’ll be ready to play (against the Ravens).”
Outside linebacker James Harrison said that it didn’t matter who the Steelers play later this week, and he didn’t want to talk about the New England Patriots because “we don’t have to play them yet.” Ward agreed.
“New England and the Jets have got to play, the last I checked,” Ward said. “I don’t think the Jets are going up there thinking they’re going to lose the game. If we do beat each other up, guess what?
“We’ve got one game to go to the Super Bowl. And for a lot of guys, you have one game to go to the Super Bowl, so you go play with one leg if you have to.”
With the intensity level already up for the Steelers at practice, they should be ready for anything this week.