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Steelers teammates preparing to finish season without NT Hoke

PITTSBURGH -- Steelers nose tackle Chris Hoke's injured neck will require surgery that could put the reliable veteran's career in jeopardy.

Hoke is scheduled to undergo surgery Wednesday and is expected to miss the rest of the season. The 35-year-old visited with doctors Monday to take a second look at the stinger he sustained during an Oct. 16 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Though the team hasn't placed Hoke on season-ending injured reserve, several of his teammates said Tuesday they're preparing to finish without him.

"It's different, but the train rolls on," defensive end Brett Keisel said.

Hoke is the second longtime member of Pittsburgh's defensive front to suffer a career-threatening injury this season. Aaron Smith was placed on injured reserve Oct. 22 with neck issues of his own.

Defensive lineman Steve McClendon said he expected to see Hoke in meetings Tuesday but was told by position coach John Mitchell that the nose tackle would be out indefinitely.

Hoke made the Steelers as an undrafted rookie out of BYU in 2001 and spent the last decade as one of the most dependable backups in the NFL. While he spent most of his career spelling starter Casey Hampton, Hoke played spectacularly in 2004 after Hampton missed the last 10 games with a knee injury. Hoke finished with career highs in tackles (27) and sacks (two) while helping Pittsburgh to a 15-1 record.

The Steelers went 19-1 in the regular season whenever Hoke was forced to start, a record in which he took great pride.

"He'd be sure to tell you about it," Keisel said with a laugh.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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