So practicing this instrument, what's the best way to learn and what's a good allotment of your time? I think probably the most important thing is to diversify in your acquisition of knowledge. Don't focus only on one part of it. Of course, if you're having a problem with that one part of it, then you need to bring your attention to bear on it and work on it until you get it right.
But try to mix up your regimen so that you're not confined to one specific thing. Work a little bit on single note things, like rolls and stuff if you've got... Some kind of lick that you want to try to learn and that requires some independence of your fingers, work on that until you're pretty well sick of that. Work on some chord stuff. Diversify in terms of the types of things you're doing.
I'd say, also, probably the most important thing you could do is start playing with play-along tracks immediately. Because you will find yourself in a whole lot of hurt when you start playing with a band if you have not gotten used to playing with tracks with people who are playing songs in a real tempo. They have a beginning, a middle and an end.
Especially if you're responsible for starting the song, you can practice on your own as much as you like. But when the drummer counts it off, you've really got to know what you're going to do and you've got to be able to execute it. Otherwise, the whole thing is just going to fall apart. You've really got to know the song you're playing.
It's a lot easier to play all the way through the song all the time because you're there at every moment. What's harder and what's more important to be able to master is to stop playing, to do your intro, stop and then come in when the chorus comes in... Whatever that happens to be. But you've got to be strong to come in at that moment when you're required.
Listen to every pedal steel record you can get your hands on and try to figure out the stuff on it as close to what they're doing as possible. Avail yourself of all the resources online. The pedal steel form has tons of tablature. Tab is pretty easy to read and a lot of guys who put in a lot of hours transcribing famous pedal steel solos and intros, these are really, really worth your while.
I can't emphasize enough the importance of getting acquainted with the classic pedal steel repertoire. The best guys in the business that you've never heard of are all over these records and if you don't know who Lloyd Green or JayDee Maness or Buddy Emmons, or Doug Jernigan or Tom Brumley are, then you've got a lot of learning to do.
Because these are the guys who made up the vocabulary, who really made the instrument what it is. You really need to know some of what they're doing and how they did it, and there you go. I mean, it's just acquire... Diversify your lessons. Don't focus only on one thing and play with tracks as much as you can, as much as you can stand it.
Learn all the songs you can because those will provide the context for the licks you're going to learn. Good luck with it.