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Storm forces Steelers to fly out on game day

| Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Steelers reciever Mike Wallace plays against the Titans at LP Stadium Oct. 2012. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review
Steelers receiver Mike Wallace picks up fourth-quarter yards as the Redskins' Josh Wilson (left) and Rob Jackson defend on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012, at Heinz Field. The Steelers won, 27-12. (Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review)

The Steelers prepared all week for Giants quarterback Eli Manning, but they weren't expecting to face logistical problems as they travel to East Rutherford, N.J., for Sunday afternoon's game at MetLife Stadium.

The Steelers will fly into Newark Airport only hours before the scheduled 4:25 p.m. kickoff because of travel issues caused by Hurricane Sandy. The team's hotel in Jersey City, N.J. is still without power since the storm ravaged the East Coast.

Steelers officials couldn't find another hotel to accommodate the players.

The team will have a pregame meal at an airport area hotel, then bus to the stadium.

But most of the players are confident that traveling on game day won't influence the outcome against the defending Super Bowl champions.

“We can't let that dictate how we're going to play,” receiver Mike Wallace said. “It's just another bump in the road we have to overcome.”

Added safety Ryan Clark: “(The Giants) were facing adversity also. Once the ball is kicked, it's about playing football. The circumstances for which we get to the game are nonfactors. No one cares about how you got to the game. It's about what you do doing those three hours on the field.

“The only way it affects me is that I won't have to wear two suits. Nobody cares about your problems. Most people are happy you have them.”

The Steelers will stay overnight at a Pittsburgh hotel, then depart at about 9:15 a.m. for a one-hour flight. According to NFL guidelines, teams are required to travel the day before a game. But the league made an exception for the Steelers, considering the circumstances.

“We just have to handle business,” receiver Antonio Brown said. “We have an appointment on Sunday, so you have to be fluid and flexible in this league.”

Added linebacker James Harrison: “We'll just be up longer. Most guys sleep until the game, so it's just a longer day.”

A handful of players acknowledged traveling and playing in a span of eight hours could cause some mental fatigue. But most said they expect their performance won't be affected.

“It's the same game day ritual except we have a short travel,” linebacker Larry Foote said. “There can't be any jet lag with an hour flight. We're not buying that at all.”

According to an ESPN report, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said Friday that commissioner Roger Goodell has spoken to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie “to ensure that the game would not divert any public safety resources. The governor said the game would not.”

Also, league officials said it would use the telecast of all games to highlight the need to raise funds for the American Red Cross to assist in the relief effort. Already, the NFL and the players' union donated $1 million to the Red Cross and other organizations.

“Having played LSU after Katrina (with Tennessee in 2005), I respect what the people are going through,” guard Ramon Foster said. “The game may not help with what they're going through on the East Coast, but it gives them a chance to get away from the tragedy for a little while.”

Ralph N. Paulk is staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rpaulk@tribweb.com or 412-320-7923

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