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Old 01-31-2009, 12:18 PM   #1
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Default Steelers Notebook: Dawson the underdog for Hall of Fame bid

Steelers Notebook: Dawson the underdog for Hall of Fame bid
Votes taken today; Steelers' Woodson likely a shoo-in
Saturday, January 31, 2009
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Peter Diana/Post-Gazette

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin stands within reaching distance of the Vince Lombardi trophy yesterday as he talks during news conference in Tampa.

TAMPA, Fla. -- By mid-afternoon today, Rod Woodson should become the 20th man from the Steelers to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

But what of Dermontti Dawson? He, too, is a finalist and many consider him to have dominated the center position like few others.

The problem for Dawson is there are no statistics to document his feats, even though he made All-Pro six consecutive times and was selected to the NFL's team of the decade for the 1990s.

He's such a legend in Pittsburgh, where he played from 1988 through 2000, that the Steelers' entire offensive line wore his No. 63 black jersey during a photo session Tuesday to honor him. Many have never met him.

"I never met him in person, but I've heard great things about him," said Trai Essex, whose idea it was to wear the jerseys to bring attention to Dawson's Hall-of-Fame candidacy. "It was really shocking to me. I thought he was in already. I just assumed he was in. When I found out, I said this would be the perfect opportunity to show our support."

Dawson did not become a finalist until his fourth try while Woodson is among the final 15 modern-day candidates in his first year of eligibility. Those, along with two seniors candidates, will be discussed by the Hall of Fame selectors at their annual meeting today before a vote is taken.

Between four and seven of the 17 candidates will make up the new class.

Woodson and Dawson were Steelers teammates for much of their careers. Woodson played cornerback from 1987 through 1996, then played for four other teams before he retired after the 2003 season, finishing up at safety.

"I really hope Dermontti gets in," Woodson said this week. "He was a tremendous, tremendous athlete, and I don't think people really understand that. I don't know if he was the first center to snap the football ball and lead on the sweep, but I've never seen a center do it as good. The guy was the strongest, probably the most athletic offensive lineman I've ever seen."
Ward listed as probable

Hines Ward went through his second full day of practice yesterday, and coach Mike Tomlin officially listed him as "probable" to play in the Super Bowl tomorrow.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was not listed on the injury report, which only contained Ward's name all week. Ward has a slight MCL sprain in his right knee.

The Arizona Cardinals listed three players as "questionable" for the game: running back J.J. Arrington (knee), punter Ben Graham (left groin) and defensive end Travis LaBoy (biceps). All were limited in practice yesterday.

Sports Illustrated's Peter King, the pool reporter for Steelers practices, said both Ward and Roethlisberger looked sharp in practice and that Tomlin declared everyone healthy. Roethlisberger was briefly listed as injured last week after getting speared in the AFC title game. The Steelers will hold a 10 a.m. walkthrough this morning, then switch hotels for more privacy tonight, a traditional move by teams in the Super Bowl.

"I feel great about our preparation," Tomlin said after practice. "Of course, you evaluate your preparation by your performance in the game, but I think the guys understand everything they have to do entering the game."

Tomlin told King he is not worried about the condition of any of the players, including Ward, whose status was "never a question" for the game.

The Steelers practiced for the second day in a row in the rain.
Trash talking via text

Steelers and Cardinals quietly have been going at it all week. They were trash-talking, although no one could hear them. They did it all with their thumbs -- electronically.

"There is a lot of text trash-talking going on right now," Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel said. "Texting is this whole new thing. We are not calling, we are just texting. It's been a lot of fun."

Most of it is between former teammates.

"Sean Morey, Brian St. Pierre, Jerame Tuman and obviously the coaching staff are down there in Arizona, so I have a lot of love and respect for those guys, and it's a great opportunity to see them again," Keisel said.
Good sport

Keisel took one of the dumber questions of the week and answered it with a straight face. He was asked if wearing their white jerseys in Florida would help the Steelers in the weather.

"I think so," Keisel answered. "Shield the sun a little bit."

Super Bowl kickoff is 6:30 p.m., after sundown.
Dynamic leadership

Tackle Max Starks said there is a difference when the line blocks for quarterbacks Byron Leftwich vs. Ben Roethlisberger.

"Byron is different from Ben because Byron will come into the huddle and say 'Listen here, I'm going to line up 5 yards from center, between the guards. You guys keep them between the lines and in three seconds the ball will be gone.'

"Ben will just come into the huddle and say 'Let's make a play.'

"You don't know where Ben is going to be. He may line up between the guards, he may run to the left or right, or he may just tuck the ball and run. He is so unpredictable, even for us blocking for him."
First published on January 31, 2009 at 12:00 am
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