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Old 01-25-2009, 12:26 PM   #1
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Default Steelers take low-key approach to big game

Steelers take low-key approach to big game

By Karen Price
Sunday, January 25, 2009

From the moment Fred "The Hammer" Williamson opened his mouth to yap about what he planned to do to the Green Bay Packers receivers in the first Super Bowl, there has been trash talk leading up to the big game.

The last time the Steelers went to the Super Bowl, linebacker Joey Porter and Seattle Seahawks tight end Jerramy Stevens did the honors.

Stevens planted the seed, talking about how it was too bad Jerome Bettis was going to leave Detroit and retire without the Lombardi Trophy. Never one to back down from a challenge, Porter gave it water and watched it bloom into an exchange that forced everyone into talking.

Of course, it all worked out for the Steelers. Porter's teammates and then-coach Bill Cowher laughed it off as Joey being Joey, Stevens dropped three passes, including one for a touchdown, and the Steelers won Super Bowl XL, 21-10.

With Porter no longer on the team, will anyone on the Steelers stir up a little pregame provocation before this Super Bowl against the Arizona Cardinals?

Probably not.

"I thought about that the other day, but I just can't really see anybody on this team doing that, and I think that's what (coach) Mike Tomlin wants," linebacker James Farrior said. "He doesn't want all of the big episodes blowing up in the paper and people talking. He's not a coach that's about that, so we're going to try to keep it as low-key as possible."

The Steelers still have their talkers cornerback Ike Taylor and linebacker Larry Foote being the two most notable examples. But keeping it on the field and out of the press seems to be a higher priority for these Steelers.

"This team's kind of changed," offensive tackle Max Starks said. "We've moved more from the point of backing up our words to just going out and letting our play speak for itself."

Farrior said Tomlin never specifically forbade his players from talking trash, even after Anthony Smith sparked a firestorm when he guaranteed a win against the New England Patriots last season. The Patriots won, 34-13.

"But (Tomlin) always tells us to be humble, be grounded, be selfless, so (the trash-talking) comes along with that," Farrior said.

Foote said Tomlin does have one rule on the subject leave the team out of it.

"Don't put 'we' in it; talk about yourself and what you're going to do," Foote said. "Don't make the team involved. Say what you're going to do, and he has no problem with it."

On the field, of course, almost anything still goes.

Just ask Taylor.

"That's what I do. I talk," said Taylor, who describes his style as "MTV." "You don't want your kids listening to me, or anyone who's real religious, you don't want to listen to me. They don't want to hear what I'm saying on the field. But that's just what I do. I'm not meaning nobody harm. That's just how I play, it's just what I do."

Taylor draws the line at talking about another player's mother or grandmother. Those are off-limits.

There's one other line Taylor won't cross.

"I don't ever call anybody out, regardless of who it is," Taylor said. "Even if they called me out, I'm not going to retaliate in the paper. I'll wait till I get on the field."

Sometimes staying away from controversy is easier said than done. Especially when it's the Super Bowl, and there are two weeks of build-up for the game, including media week when hordes of reporters are asking questions.

"It's hard, it's hard," Farrior said. "By about the fifth day you're getting the same three or four questions, and you just start loosening up and opening up and just talking and letting it fly. But, I think we have a lot of smart guys in here who won't put any bulletin board material up for them."

Unless the Cardinals start it. Then, all bets may be off.

"I'm quite sure if they get to talking, we're going to get to talking, too," Foote said.

Tomlin said he finds the pregame verbal sparring to be more entertaining than anything.

"I don't think it's a factor whatsoever in the football game," Tomlin said. "One of the things I've stressed all year to our team is talk is just that. It's talk. At some point Jeff Reed or somebody else's kicker is going to kick the ball off and the talking stops. So we keep it in proper perspective."

Karen Price can be reached at kprice@tribweb.com or 412-320-7980.
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