For the second time this season, the Steelers have lost a veteran defensive lineman that commanded respect on and off the field.
Nose tackle Chris Hoke, in his 10th and possibly final campaign with the Steelers, will miss the rest of the season because of a lingering neck injury.
Hoke, who has been out since suffering a stinger in an Oct. 16 game, is scheduled to have surgery next Wednesday.
The Steelers likely will sign rookie defensive end Corbin Bryant from the practice squad to take Hoke's place on the 53-man roster.
"I was sitting in the meeting room (yesterday), and I looked back probably 10 times because I always have him in my ear, telling me how to play, what to do," defensive tackle Steve McLendon said.
Hoke, 35, is in the final year of his contract. Defensive end Aaron Smith, who suffered a season-ending neck injury in October, is in a similar situation as he also is 35 and in the final year of his deal.
The question with Hoke and Smith is whether they will return to the Steelers next season, if at all.
"It's going to be tough, especially when you have an injury like that," said defensive end Brett Keisel, who is close friends with Hoke and Smith. "Those guys will have to make the decisions themselves."
Hoke made the Steelers as an undrafted free agent in 2001, and he served as a valuable reserve to nose tackle Casey Hampton. The Steelers were 17-1 in regular-season games that Hoke started, and the gregarious tackle is one of the most popular players on the team.
"You've got to follow a guy like that," Steelers defensive end Ziggy Hood said. "Seeing a guy like that makes you want to work harder because you can see what hard work gets you."
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