Steelers not worried about Pro Bowl
By John Harris, TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Steelers players downplayed their lack of representation at the Pro Bowl. Despite leading the NFL in total defense nearly the entire season, only three Steelers were selected: outside linebacker James Harrison, strong safety Troy Polamalu and inside linebacker James Farrior.
Harrison and Polamalu were voted to the team as starters; Farrior made it as a reserve. However, defensive standouts such as Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton, LaMarr Woodley and Ike Taylor were left off the team. No offensive players were named.
"I was surprised," Smith said. "Obviously, I care. You'd like to go. But I like to win more than I care about stats. It's not the perfect system, but it's the best system we have right now."
Hampton said he didn't feel slighted.
"There are a lot of good players in this league," he said. "Just because we have a great defense doesn't mean players on other teams don't have great seasons."
• In a surprising admission, Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy said he would vote for Harrison for league MVP over his quarterback, Peyton Manning.
"If I had to vote right now, I'd vote for James Harrison," Dungy said on Sirius radio. "He's just been phenomenal in anchoring a defense that's playing as well as anyone in the league and he does so many things for them. ... He's like a Randy Moss or Dwight Freeney. You have to set everything to block him first before you set up any other plays."
• Punter Mitch Berger accused Baltimore's Frank Walker of spitting on him following Jeff Reed's extra point that gave the Steelers a 13-9 lead late in the fourth quarter. Berger said Walker dived at Reed's leg on his follow through, and things escalated when Walker and Reed exchanged shoves and Berger attempted to intervene. Reed was assessed a pesonal foul, but Walker, a reserve defensive back, wasn't penalized.
"I was trying to tell the ref the guy spit on me. Look at my facemask," said Berger, who holds on kicks. "It was shocking."
Walker said he spoke with Steelers safety Ryan Clark about the incident.
"I told him what happened and he said he would tell Berger," Walker said. "After the kick, I guess he felt like I tried to take his kicker's knee out and I was just trying to block his kick. We were talking, exchanging words and it was just a slobber moment. Yeah, say it, don't spray it. I don't care; not one bit. I hate Pittsburgh."
• Defensive end Brett Keisel returned to practice Wednesday. Keisel missed three games with a knee injury. Coach Mike Tomlin said he expects Keisel to start Sunday at Tennessee. Clark (foot), Harrison (foot), Polamalu (foot), tackle Marvel Smith (back) and Woodley (knee) did not practice. Running back Willie Parker, Smith and wide receiver Hines Ward missed practice for reasons that weren't injury related.
• Smith was named AFC defensive player of the week after registering eight tackles, one sack and two quarterback pressures against Baltimore. This is Smith's first defensive player of the week award.
6 — 100-yard rushing games Tennessee's LenDale White and Chris Johnson have produced this season.
0 — 100-yard rushing games allowed by Steelers this season.