By Teresa Varley
Steelers.com The following is an informal Super Bowl Diary, giving you the sights and sounds of the Steelers trip to Tampa, Florida for Super Bowl XLIII.
Check back on a daily basis for updates and if you missed any of the entries, be sure to click on the link for each day so you don't miss any of the fun.
Super Bowl Diary Day 7 Previous Entries: Super Bowl Diary Day 6* Super Bowl Diary Day 5 Super Bowl Diary Day 4 Super Bowl Diary Day 3 Super Bowl Diary Day 2 Super Bowl Diary Day 1*
This will be the last entry and it wraps up the last few days in Tampa, which were filled with lots of excitement as I am sure you can understand.
On Friday after the families came in a few of us had the chance to run out and have dinner. We went to a place Champps (yes it has two p's) and immediately felt like we were in Pittsburgh (although we did have to tell the hostess they forgot the 'h' at the end of Pittsburgh on the sign out front).
Almost every table had fans decked out in black and gold and it really was the first chance to see how vast the support was. It was just awesome. The Penguins game was on television (much to the delight of Jason Seidling in PR) so we watched that while having dinner. As we were finishing up there was lot of excitement and noise and we looked around and in came Jerome Bettis with a TV crew to do a promo. We all got the chance to talk with Jerome (who is one of the nicest guys in the world).
Saturday morning was the final walk-thru for the team. It was a family affair as players took their kids with them and other family members, about 250 of them, were also invited to come watch and take pictures afterwards. Group photos were taken and there was just plenty of excitement.
"We had some people who have been special to us come to practice today – family members and high school coaches," said head coach Mike Tomlin afterwards. "It's not a big deal to us, but it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for them. We wanted to show our appreciation for what they've done for us by allowing them to be a part of it."
Chris Hoke and family.
Part of the group.
Mewelde Moore and family.
Also on hand at the practice was the Reverend Jesse Jackson.
"I got to know him recently," said Tomlin. "He's a fan of football, a supporter of us, and we appreciate it."
Another guest at practice was Mike Utley, the former Detroit Lions offensive lineman who is paralyzed, who was invited by director of football operations Kevin Colbert.
While some families headed to practice, others were off to enjoy the sites and sounds of Tampa, including Busch Gardens, the Aquarium and the NFL Experience.
This was the first chance I had to head to downtown Tampa and check out some of the activities there. We headed to the River Walk area and I stopped by the media center, where I had the chance to chat with Solomon Wilcots for a little while. The area was beautiful and once again, swarming with Steelers fans.
Later in the afternoon a lot of us were glued to our televisions to watch the Hall of Fame announcement and were thrilled that Rod Woodson got in, but disappointed that Dermontti Dawson, a very deserving candidate, did not. Here is hoping his day comes soon.
The Steelers organization takes great care of their staff and on Saturday night they hosted a gathering as a thank you for everyone, staff and their families. The music was great, especially when the DJ played "Here We Go" and "Renegade" and Dan Rooney came in and thanked everyone, something that was touching for all.
While we were having fun, the team was taken to a hideaway hotel, getting them away from all of the excitement going on and allowing them to focus on nothing but football.
Sunday morning – game day – the day we have all been waiting for. I was anxious and excited, but I wasn't nervous (well at least not yet).
The morning started off with mass for all guests in a tent outside the hotel. You couldn't help but smile when you looked at the altar and it had a Terrible Towel on it. Father Dave Bonnar and Father Paul Taylor celebrated the mass, with Father Paul starting and closing it with "Go Steelers."
A huge brunch was a great gathering point for everyone and it was fun to look from table to table and see everyone in the jersey of the player they are related to – some of the larger contingents being the families of Mitch Berger, Chris Hoke, Nate Washington and Justin Hartwig. It's always great to see the way the families wear the jerseys and the Hoke kids were among the ones who had "Dad" on the back of their jerseys.
A group of us who were working the game had to leave before the friends and families so we took a shuttle to the game. After some confusion after we were dropped off we were finally directed the right way and after some anxious moments, we all made it to where we needed to be. Emily Scerba and I headed to the press box and got all of our stuff set up in our seats in the press box. It was fun to see a lot of familiar faces, including some PR directors from other NFL teams who always help out at the Super Bowl and do a fantastic job. Corry Rush from the NFL checked in on us and as always during the weeks leading up to the game was there to help out with anything we needed.
We walked around the stadium some, got some great pictures on the field, where it was a who's who around the NFL. But the one person I was happiest to see was Rod Woodson who was working on the NFL Network pregame show. When he got a break we had a chance to chat for a little bit and I was thrilled to be able to congratulate him.
Bettis was on the field for a while talking with Hines Ward and the two had a great time out there joking around.
There is nothing like the excitement of a Super Bowl. You just get chills throughout – starting with the incredible rendition of the National Anthem by Jennifer Hudson. She was amazing.
So, while I wasn't nervous early on, I sure was as the game wore on. The first half we seemed to be in total control, but the score was only 10-7 near the end of the half. That was until James Harrison returned that interception for a touchdown. We have to try to contain ourselves in the press box, but even though we weren't yelling and screaming, we were among the most excited people in the stadium when he scored.
Bruce Springsteen and E Street Band rocked the place at halftime. It's amazing you go to the Super Bowl and you see a mini-concert as well.
I don't need to tell you anything about that second half – all of you saw it and know what it was like. We had to head out of the press box and down to field level right at the end of the game so after Santonio scored, and the booth review agreed, we packed it up and got ready to go. We waited a few minutes until the final gun sounded, then the Steelers crew were all headed down to enjoy the magic of the moment.
Players and their families were overcome with joy on the field. Everyone was hugging everyone. It was truly amazing. When that confetti is flying, the music playing and the trophy being passed around from player to player for pictures, it's so surreal. It's something that just doesn't get old.
A lot of the players had to do interviews at stations outside of the locker room, but after that everyone packed up and headed back to the hotel. When our bus pulled out we had a little bit of a run in with one of the Cardinals buses, as ours hit their mirror and knocked it for a loop. The driver didn't realize it (guess he didn't hear the crashing sound) until some people started to bang on the bus to let us know. The good news was they didn't make us wait around as it's all part of the same bus company.
We got back to the hotel and unlike the past few days, we had to come in the front door because of the post-game party. There was a huge crowd of fans waiting outside and the players and coaches on our bus weren't surprised for a minute.
The party was a great celebration for an incredible team. "We Are The Champions" was sung over and over again by the group Larry Lee and Back in the Day, who did a awesome job all night.
Lynn Swann, Ryan Malone (former Penguins player who hails from Pittsburgh) who is now with the Tampa Bay Lightening, Chris Kirkpatrick from N'Sync and Joe Manganiello who is Owen on One Tree Hill and is a Pittsburgh native.
And of course, there was Snoop Dogg who performed on stage several times much to the delight of the players and everyone else in the crowd. It was crazy.
It was a late night for all, but more fun than you can imagine.
Monday morning we all headed back to Pittsburgh and it was fun to catch the local news and see all of the coverage of the game from the Pittsburgh perspective and see what it was like in the city on Sunday.
Then came Tuesday and the celebration parade. The players were so hyped to celebrate with the fans who have been there with them through thick and thin. We boarded buses on the South Side and headed downtown. The parade started on Grant Street and the crowd was absolutely overwhelming. In 2005 the crowd was estimated at 250,000. This time it was 350,000. It's like nothing you can imagine. They were everywhere – on sidewalks, office windows, trees, on top of billboards and on every level of a huge parking garage.
The more the crowd cheered, the more the players got into it. They ate it all up and the fans were thrilled by the excitement – even Casey Hampton showed them love by taking off his sweatshirt and going completely shirtless. Hampton was also one of the many players who walked part of the route so he could high-five the fans.
Troy Polamalu crowd surfs
When the players got to the stage it was insane. They were having so much fun. James Farrior introduced teammate after teammate, giving each of them a chance to give some love to the fans. And that they did. They yelled, screamed, got the crowd fired up, thanked everyone and even made an attempt at singing Renegade, minus knowing any of the words.
Fireworks exploded as the celebration ended and everyone headed back to the buses, a super ending to a super season.
Hopefully you have enjoyed the week long journey (plus another day or two) of Super Bowl XLIII. It was a great experience and a pleasure to bring you a little closer to the action.