By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — Troy Polamalu never met a bye week that he didn’t like, but that was the general consensus for the Pittsburgh Steelers going into their better late than never four-day weekend as prescribed by the new CBA.
The Steelers practiced Wednesday, the second straight day they fined-tuned their game before departing the practice facility for various destinations with various plans. Hines Ward is getting on a plane for Atlanta, and Casey Hampton is returning to his hometown in Texas.
But third-year player Ziggy Hood is staying put, even though many similar-aged teammates are looking for some fun in the sun.
“I’m staying in Pittsburgh,” Hood said. “I’ll watch some college football and the NFL and chill out here in Pittsburgh. This is a chance for us to watch some games on TV and maybe get a look at some other teams that we don’t get a chance to see very often. So, that’s what I’m going to do.
“But it’s mostly opportunity to rest up and re-charge our batteries for the stretch run. If we all stay grounded and keep working hard when we get back, we should be all right. We need to keep improving every week, play together and get the job done. That’s the only way to look at it right now.”
Polamalu tends to want to get away from football during the bye week, spend time with his family and rest. Football will be here when he returns next week.
“Even though it’s late in the season, I would say this bye week came at a great time for us,” Polamalu said. “Of course, they always come at a good time, as far as I’m concerned. I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad bye week. But this year, with Ben and the guys we have banged up, it’s definitely good to get time off.”
Polamalu didn’t know if he’d catch AFC North rivals Cincinnati and Baltimore this week, as the Bengals visit the Ravens for a key intra-division clash. But James Farrior knew where he would be this Sunday.
“I’m a fan, so I’ll be watching football this weekend,” Farrior said. “I’m going to watch every game that I can, and I’ve got to be pulling for the Bengals this weekend, don’t I? The Ravens beat us twice, and the Bengals can shake things up a little bit with a win against Baltimore. (But) it was big for us that the Ravens lost last week at Seattle. That helped us out tremendously.
“But we have to take care of our business and not worry about anybody else. I definitely believe it’s still important to get home-field advantage. Sure, we’ve won it all on the road, (but) it’s definitely better to be at home with your regular routine and in front of your home crowd. There’s nothing better than that, so I really think it’s important to be at home. It has to be an advantage.”
Unlike many younger teammates, 15-year veteran Farrior has tweaked his bye-week itinerary over the years.
“Sure, it’s changed over the years,” Farrior said. “Whenever we had bye weeks in my younger days, I just wanted to hit the ground running. Now, it’s all about getting enough rest and getting my body healthy for the stretch run.
“It was good for me to get back out there with the guys last week, and I didn’t have any problems with my calf. So, I’m going to take it easy this week and rest up, and I’ll be ready to go for the final six regular-season games.”
The most-grizzled Steelers veteran, 74-year-old Dick LeBeau pretty much does the same things he always does during football season.
“I don’t know what the other coaches do, but I’m always on a busman’s holiday,” LeBeau said. “I’m only across the street from football. If there’s a game on, I’m watching it, and I’ll be in here looking at video on Kansas City to start getting ready for them. So, that’s just what I do.”
The Steelers return to practice late Monday morning, an extra workout day, as far as the coaching staff is concerned. They have their usual Tuesday off and then get back for the final practices Wednesday through Friday.
The Steelers leave for Kansas City Saturday to face the Chiefs Sunday, Nov. 27, at 8:20 p.m. at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.