Pittsburgh Steelers Pool Report
Friday, January 30, 2009
By Peter King
Pro Football Writers of America
TAMPA--The Pittsburgh Steelers, appearing loose and relaxed for the third straight day, hustled through their final major practice prior to Super Bowl XLIII Friday at the University of South Florida, and coach Mike Tomlin said his team was completely healthy heading into the Sunday night game against the Arizona Cardinals at Raymond James Stadium. All 53 players, including wide receiver Hines Ward (right knee strain), practiced without restriction in unseasonably chilly conditions for an hour and 50 minutes.
Ward and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, speared in the kidney area during the AFC Championship Game 12 days ago, looked sharp. Roethlisberger executed several efficient red zone and goal-line plays, finding tight end Heath Miller for a couple of scores.
The Steelers will conclude their practice week with a short walk-through session on USF's two football practice fields Saturday at 10 a.m. before the club changes lodging Saturday afternoon from their Tampa hotel to a private location in the Tampa Bay area to ensure privacy and a good night's sleep before Sunday's game.
"I feel great about our preparation,'' coach Mike Tomlin said at the close of practice. "Of course, you evaluate your preparation by your performanc e in the game, but I think the guys understand everything they have to do entering the game.''
The Steelers implemented the gameplan for the Super Bowl last week at their Pittsburgh practice facility. The Wednesday, Thursday and Friday practices in Tampa were mirror workout of what the team did last week.
"This week was a re-do,'' he said. "We didn't have the sense of urgency we might normally have in a practice week, but that's because the guys have seen it all once.''
Tomlin said he thinks his team is ready to play, and isn't worried about the condition of any his players. He said Ward's status for the game "never was a question.'' It's now clear Ward will be in Sunday's starting lineup.
Practice began at 11 in a light rain with a temperature of 55 degrees, a drop of 22 degrees from Wednesday's week-opening practice. Working with piped-in crowd noise at the snap of the ball, the Pittsburgh first-team offense and defense worked on third-and-short, goal-line, red-zone and nickel situations. As he has done all week, backup quarterback Byron Leftwich, playing the scout team, gave an effective look of Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner, putting air under his deep balls the way Warner does.