Several Steelers players said coach Bill Cowher was not satisfied with Thursday's practice.
"He raised the temperatures a little bit out there," left guard Alan Faneca said afterward. "He was just making sure our mind was in the right place. You know, big game coming up and he likes to do that, make sure our minds are in the right place, just a little check-up."
Cowher, apparently, wants his team to understand that it can't shirk the details with the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots invading Heinz Field in two days.
"He's a perfectionist; I'm a perfectionist," free safety Chris Hope said. "The way he's looking at it is, we're not close enough; we're not making the plays. And, in order for you to make those plays in games, you have to be making them in practice."
At a news conference two days earlier, Cowher said his team would not become complacent, despite two easy wins against Houston and Tennessee. He was asked if playing the Super Bowl champions guaranteed the Steelers would keep their early-season edge.
"We'll keep the edge," he said. "Trust me, we'll keep the edge. Whether it's New England or whoever it is, you have to. Not having it is not even an option."
The Patriots are not likely to wilt against a Steelers team that trampled Tennessee, 34-7; and Houston, 27-7. The Patriots are coming off a 10-point loss at Carolina and they have no intention of starting the season 1-2.
"Coach has been honest with us," Hope said. "The teams we've played were good, but they're not the Patriots. And who knows how good the Patriots are until you play them? But he's trying to keep us focused with the mentality that we haven't done anything yet. We're 2-0, but we could be 0-2. And if we were 0-2, would the practices be any different? We have to come out each and every day at practice with that edge, with that hunger."
Ward, a team captain, said practice went smoother once Cowher reset things yesterday. Ward said it is the job of the veterans to remind the young players that winning games by scores of 34-7 and 27-7 are not commonplace in the NFL, that each week provides a different challenge.
"You can't look at what we did in the past and think, because of what we did, we can just go into the next game and beat somebody," Ward said. "Especially the defending champions. The veteran guys understand that we need to go out and put in the work, because this is a championship team coming to our backyard. We can't be expected to come out and just play. We gotta go out there and execute our game plan and simulate that at practice as much as possible."
Faneca had this to say about Cowher's reaction to practice: "Sometimes, it's a situation where we need it and, sometimes, it's a little reminder, things may be going fine but he feels a little reminder is needed. That's his job. His job is to steer the ship."