In his 12 seasons as the anchor of the Steelers' 3-4 defense, Casey Hampton has played in three Super Bowls and been selected to five Pro Bowl teams after being a No. 1 draft choice in 2001.
But he said he'd have to go back to 2003 to remember a season as disappointing as this one or find a game as meaningless as the one the Steelers will play today against the Cleveland Browns.
"It's tough but you get paid to do a job," Hampton said. "You got to go out there and be professional about it and make the best of it, whatever that is."
Hampton does not know if this will be his final game with the Steelers, but he said he does not plan on this being the final game of his National Football League career because he thinks he can play two or three more years.
And he thinks he played well enough this year to prove he can still be an effective nose tackle, especially after recovering from ACL surgery.
"I definitely want to continue to play, if it's here or wherever," Hampton said. "I definitely want to be here, but it's a business. I understand that. Whatever happens is going to happen. I don't have any control over that. I only have control over what I do on the field."
Hampton even got better as the season went along, one of the reasons the Steelers' rush defense has climbed to No. 2 in the league and has allowed an average of 3.05 yards per carry in the past six games.
"I did all right," Hampton said. "Once I got healthy, I started playing a little better. I came on when I got healthy. It was probably mid-season. It took me a little while. Once I did I started playing a lot better.
"Give me a whole offseason to work out and get in shape and be ready to play, I think I can play at a high level, no question about that."
The Steelers have a chance to finish No. 1 in the league in rushing because Browns rookie Trent Richardson, who had 85 yards in the first meeting, is not expected to play. Hampton will line against center Alex Mack, probably the Browns' best lineman after Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas.
"Casey, I'd say for two months now, you've seen him make an awful lot of plays," said defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. "Probably the statistic we've come the furthest in was average yards per rush and you know Casey is always going to be a big part of that."
Hampton took a $3 million paycut to $2.8 million in exchange for playing out the final year of his three-year contract with the team. It is unlikely the Steelers will re-sign him to any extended contract after the season, but it's possible he could come back for one more season at the veteran minimum.
But, if the Steelers don't want to bring him back, Hampton said he will go elsewhere to play.Steelers
Gerry Dulac: email@example.com; twitter: @gerrydulac