EAST RUTHERFORD — New York Giants middle linebacker Mark Herzlich isn’t preparing any differently for Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
It’s just a little more exciting for the cancer survivor who was the feel-good story of last season after making the Giants’ roster.
Herzlich has a chance to get back in the starting lineup with Chase Blackburn nursing a hamstring injury.
Blackburn, who was hurt in the Giants’ 29-24 win over Dallas, did not practice Wednesday. He spent the warm-up riding a stationary bike.
It’s a big game for the Giants (6-2), who have used a four-game winning streak to open a 2½- game lead in the NFC East.
Pittsburgh (4-3) will be bringing a two-game winning streak to New Jersey for its first game at MetLife Stadium.
“This week is a big week for our team and for me especially,” said Herzlich, who started two games last season before being sidelined with an ankle injury. “If I get a chance to go out there and start, then I’ll go out there and make the most of it.”
Herzlich had a tackle and two special teams tackles against Dallas on Sunday, but he knows how important his job will be against the Steelers.
“A lot of the focus every week goes toward getting ready to go in just in case Chase’s shoe comes untied or something like that and I have to go in and get some plays,” Herzlich said. “So the preparation will be basically the same. Obviously, it’s going to be a little bit more intense during practice, which is what I would rather have anyway.”
The big concern for Herzlich would be running back Jonathan Dwyer.
He has rushed for more than 100 yards in each of the Steelers last two games and the Giants are not going to beat Ben Roethlisberger unless they can make him more of a one-dimensional quarterback.
Coach Tom Coughlin believes Herzlich will be ready to go. There was a point in training camp where the second-year player from Boston College was going to push Blackburn for the starting job.
“He’s obviously studied and been in the same room with Chase and knows a lot of those mannerisms,” Coughlin said. “If Chase is able to go, fine.
“If he’s not able to go, I’m sure he’ll be a big help to Mark this week or to any number of linebackers depending on the personnel set that we’re in.”
Besides Blackburn, center David Bass (ankle-elbow), running back Ahmad Bradshaw (foot), tight end Bear Pascoe (ankle), linebacker Keith Rivers (calf), safety Antrel Rolle (concussion) and linebacker Jacquian Williams (knee) did not practice.
Defensive tackle Rocky Bernard (quadriceps) and receiver Victor Cruz (calf) were limited, while safety Kenny Phillips (knee) practiced full-time for the first time in a month.