Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is a man of few words, but one of his recognized phrases is "the standard is the standard" when it comes to expectations for his team.
Given how banged up Pittsburgh is heading into the Monday night showdown with the 49ers, perhaps there has been no bigger test of that philosophy.
"I don't think I can ever recall a game like this," said veteran receiver Hines Ward, who been around since 1998.
In addition to suspended linebacker James Harrison, the Steelers will be without Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger is hobbled by a high ankle sprain.
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It prompted veteran Pittsburgh NFL reporter Gerry Dulac to write that it "is unlikely they have never entered a big game minus so many of their top players ... (but) they will never consider the possibility they are playing short-handed against one of the best teams in the NFC."
"We're a pretty resilient bunch," said defensive captain James Farrior.
"I think we do a better job than most of not crying about it and just accepting it and going out there and playing," nose tackle Casey Hampton said. "It's the coach; he doesn't let us feel sorry for ourselves. He preaches the standard is the standard, and you believe that when you go in."
"We can't be sulking about that and thinking about who we don't have," Farrior said. "Nobody cares about our problems. They're glad we got 'em."
Steelers a bit testy about O-line challenge
We know that the 49ers have not allowed a rushing touchdown all year. It's not just an impressive statistic, it's something that has defined the 2011 team.
The Steelers' offensive line is aware of it, and by the account provided by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Ralph N. Paulk, they're sick of hearing about it. Nobody wanted to go on record about the subject, leaving the conversation to wide receiver Mike Wallace.
Monday, Paulk wrote the following:
The Steelers' oft-maligned, perpetually thin-skinned offensive linemen were somewhat testy after the final practice session for Monday night's nonconference showdown of playoff-bound teams at Candlestick Park. ...
While the Steelers' offensive linemen chose not to engage in a verbal spat with the confident 49ers about the challenge they face, wide receiver Mike Wallace climbed into the ring for them.
"We'll do what we have to do," Wallace said. "We're not going to make a lot of changes. We've going to run at them, and it doesn't matter that they're the No. 1 run defense.
"They're going to have to own up to that. They've been No. 1 against everybody else, but they haven't played us."
This is the state of the Steelers' offensive front, according to Paulk.
"One-time castaway, tackle Trai Essex, steps in at left guard with Doug Legursky moving to center. Essex gets the start largely because the coaching staff has lost confidence in Chris Kemoeatu, who committed three penalties against Cleveland. It doesn't help that right tackle Marcus Gilbert was hospitalized Thursday with an infection and left tackle Jonathan Scott lashed out at rookie Cam Heyward in frustration during Saturday's practice.