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Steelers guard against dehydration

His grandmother introduced it to him while growing up in Florida, and Max Starks swears by it as an elixir for dehydration.

That is why the Steelers left tackle said he plans to have pickle juice on the visiting sidelines Sunday at Raymond James Stadium, where the heat could create problems.

"If you ever get cramps," Starks said, "drinking pickle juice helps alleviate it faster than most other things."

Conditioning coordinator Garrett Giemont addressed the players during a team meeting Wednesday, and he talked about the need to hydrate, rest and eat properly.

Such reminders are not uncommon at the Steelers' practice facility, but Giemont no doubt had the players' attention after what happened last week against the Tennessee Titans. Playing in hot and humid weather in Nashville — the temperature was 87 degrees at kickoff — the Steelers battled dehydration as well as the Titans.

Cramping became such a problem among the offensive linemen that the Steelers had to rotate their seven linemen in the second half, particularly after right guard Trai Essex sprained his left ankle.

"We've definitely got to start being smarter about it and hydrating early in the week," said left guard Chris Kemoeatu, who had to sit out a series against the Titans because of cramps. "I didn't take it that serious (last week). I thought heat wasn't going to be a factor, but it definitely was."

It is almost certain that weather will be a factor this week given that the game is in Florida.

And, as in Nashville, the Steelers will be the men in black as the Buccaneers have opted to wear their white home jerseys for the 1 p.m. game.

"I don't know if you can use psychological warfare on a team like the Pittsburgh Steelers," Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris said when asked if making the visitors wear their black jerseys in the Florida weather is a ploy. "You're talking about a mentally tough team. They'll play through the heat."

Kemoeatu said coach Mike Tomlin did not have the Steelers practice in pads yesterday with an eye toward making sure the players are fresh for Sunday.

"It shouldn't be an issue," Steelers head athletic trainer John Norwig said of dehydration, "but it's going to be hot and humid there, and we may run into some snags."

If they do, Starks said he will be ready with pickle juice — something he said was on the sidelines when he played high school football in the Orlando area and then at the University of Florida.

When asked how his teammates react when he talks up the restorative power of pickle juice, which is loaded with electrolytes, Starks laughed.

"They look at me like I'm crazy in general," Starks said. "It's one of those things that, 'That's Max. Max would know something like that.' "

Additional Information:

Not cramping their style

To ward off dehydration Sunday in Tampa, Steelers head athletic trainer John Norwig said the players have been advised to do the following things this week:

• Drink water and sports drinks such as Gatorade.

• Refrain from drinking alcohol, energy drinks and anything with caffeine.

• Salt their food a little heavier than usual.

• For snacks, eat fruits because they mostly consist of water, and pretzels because they are salty.

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