By Teresa Varley
Steelers.com The Steelers tradition of sending a linebacker to the Pro Bowl continues this year as James Harrison was selected along with nose tackle Casey Hampton, the Steelers only two representatives.
Harrison is a starter at outside linebacker for the AFC squad, along with Denver's Elvis Dumervil. It is the eighth time in the last 10 seasons and the 16th time in the last 20 years that a Steelers linebacker was selected to the Pro Bowl.
"It's nice to see that people out there appreciate what I'm doing, but I couldn't do it without the help of my teammates of course and great calls from Coach (Dick) LeBeau," said Harrison.
Harrison, the NFL's defensive player of the year in 2008, will make his third straight Pro Bowl appearance. Harrison goes in to the Dolphins game with 70 tackles, 10 sacks, five forced fumbles and 20 quarterback pressures.
He was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Month in October, putting up strong numbers with seven sacks and 21 tackles. He earned AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors for his performance against the Detroit Lions when he had a season-high three sacks.
For him, though, it's more about team success than individual honors.
"I take the Super Bowl more seriously than I do an individual award like this," said Harrison. "It feels good that they thought I played well enough to deserve the award. Other than that, when it all comes down to it, it's all about winning Super Bowls."
Linebacker LaMarr Woodley, who leads the Steelers in sacks, is a first alternate and is happy for his teammate.
"James deserves it," said Woodley. "The guy has been playing hard all year, playing through injuries, playing tough."
This is the fifth time in nine seasons that Hampton has been selected to the Pro Bowl, going in as a reserve lineman.
"It's a big honor to get voted in by your peers and the guys you play against," said Hampton. "That never gets old when you are recognized by them. That's what makes it more special. The guys you play against vote you in."
Hampton has helped to plug the middle for the defense that is ranked third against the rush. Through 15 games he has recorded 40 tackles. Hampton also has been a nuisance for quarterbacks with a career-high two and a half sacks and 13 quarterback pressures/hurries.
"I think individually I did okay," said Hampton of his season. "I played pretty good. But at the end of the day defensively we fell short of the expectations and how we are accustomed to playing. That is the only thing that is disappointing."
Hampton previously made the Pro Bowl squad in 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2008 and ranks fourth in Steelers' history among defensive linemen for Pro Bowl appearances behind Joe Greene (10), Ernie Stautner (9), and L.C. Greenwood (6).
"You always hear about those guys and to be mentioned in any category with them is a great honor," said Hampton. "Me playing now, it's a big honor but I think I will appreciate it more once I am done playing. I will realize how big of a deal it is."
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and tight end Heath Miller are also first alternates.
The Pro Bowl will be played on Sunday, January 31 at Land Shark Stadium in Miami, Florida. It was moved from Hawaii this year and kicks off Super Bowl week in Miami.