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Like I pretended in the backyard

| Thursday, Jan. 10, 2002

It was halftime and the coaches told me I was going to be playing the entire second half. I was pretty sure I was going to play, but I had no idea it was going to be that much.

I had played a lot on special teams, but to finally get to play defense was literally like a dream come true. I was pretty sure that I wasn't going to play defense in the first half, but it was well worth the wait.

The great thing was that we knew we needed to win and get back on track. The coaches had enough confidence in the guys that have been backing up to get the job done.

Growing up in western Pennsylvania, everyone dreams of playing the Browns in the snow. I got to live that dream.

There have been a lot of times this season when I thought that I must be as lucky as anybody in the world. I have been right all along. I work hard, but a lot of people work hard. I am fortunate enough to play for the team I grew up rooting for against their greatest rival. That's as good as it gets -- so far.

The Kurpeikis File
Justin Kurpeikis, a rookie free-agent linebacker on the Pittsburgh Steelers' roster, writes a diary once a week for PittsburghLIVE.

Kurpeikis, a native of Hampton Township, played high school football for Central Catholic and was a star defensive lineman for Penn State University. As a senior for the Nittany Lions, Kurpeikis earned first team all Big Ten honors.

Although Kurpeikis, 6-3, 248 pounds, was not selected in the NFL draft, he signed a rookie free agent contract with the Steelers. He made the team as a linebacker and for his special teams play.

I was mostly happy with how I played, but I'm highly critical of myself. I thought that my pass-rush technique could have been better, but I think a lot of it had to do with being rusty. I hadn't gotten to rush the quarterback in a game situation since August. There's no doubt that practice has helped a lot, but there's nothing like the real thing.

Over the course of the season, I think I improved on special teams and that's all I can really evaluate in terms of game performance.

Playoffs

As a team, we don't care who we play in the playoffs. We know what the Jets and the Ravens are about having played them in the regular season. We also spent the day today (Wednesday) preparing for Baltimore. We'll prepare for the other teams the next two days.

We're going to deal with what we can control. We'll prepare ourselves according to our game plan and concern ourselves with execution.

NCAA Championship

I saw Miami play Penn State to start the season and I was extremely impressed with how sound they were in pretty much every phase of the game.

I had two trains of the thought for Nebraska. They were either going to pull the upset or get blown out. I didn't really think they could hang around.

Miami was every bit as good as their ranking and Nebraska wasn't nearly as good as their ranking.

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