Playoffs new ground for some
By F. Dale Lolley, Staff writer

PITTSBURGH - Winners of two Super Bowls since 2005, the Steelers have plenty of playoff experience.

Because they missed the playoffs last season, the Steelers have many key players who have never experienced the postseason.

As the Steelers finished bye-week practices Thursday, the anticipation was obvious on the faces of some of those players.

[IMGL][/IMGL]"I'm geeked. Write it down like that. I'm geeked," said second-year wide receiver Mike Wallace. "No, really I'm excited. I really don't know what's going on, but I'm going to follow the lead of the guys who have been there."

The Steelers, who finished the regular season at 12-4 and locked up the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs, have 14 starters who have seen postseason action.

For those other starters, including Wallace, the playoffs are an unknown.

They'll watch this weekend's wild card games, looking for any clue or hint as to what they'll face Jan. 15, when the Steelers host their opening playoff game.

"I'll watch them," said rookie center Maurkice Pouncey. "I'm a football fan. So I'll watch all the games."

The younger players are leaning on the veterans to tell them what to expect.

"They told me, 'Think about the hardest guy you've had to go against, and then think about the hardest play you've had and imagine that times three. Playoffs are a different level, and you've got to bring your A game on every play because everybody is chasing that Lombardi (Trophy),'" second-year guard Ramon Foster said.

That's why Steelers coach Mike Tomlin gave a number of the veterans the week off from practice. They needed the rest. The less-experienced players used the week to get some extra practice.

"Everybody's going to be a lot more focused," Wallace said. "They're going to pay more attention to the details, watch more film. We have to be ready. But this is why we do this, for the playoffs and to win the Super Bowl. I'm excited about it. I don't really know what's going on, but I'll be ready."

It's also different for rookies such as Pouncey than it is for second-year players like Wallace and Foster, who were with the Steelers last season.

The second-year players joined a team coming off a Super Bowl championship but fell short of the playoffs last season.

"That just makes us more ready to take advantage of the opportunity," Foster said. "We didn't make it last year, so we can't just let this go down the drain."

And if the Steelers somehow get to the Super Bowl again? Well, the intensity will be ratcheted up even more.

"I can't even imagine a Super Bowl; I've never been to one," Wallace said. "I've heard good things about it, and that just makes you want to go even worse. I want to get there. But you know it's going to take some work. But I'm ready to put in that work."