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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, February 10, 2006

Steelers enjoying sweet ride

By Brandon Masuoka
Advertiser Staff Writer

Pittsburgh quarterback Ben ... no, that's not him, it's Steeler teammate Troy Polamalu playing the part of signal caller at Pro Bowl practice. Polamalu, a safety, will play for the AFC in Sunday's game.

RONEN ZILBERMAN | Associated Press

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The arrival of five Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers electrified Pro Bowl practice yesterday at the Ihilani Resort and Spa.

The Steelers offensive guard Alan Faneca, defensive tackle Casey Hampton, center Jeff Hartings, strong safety Troy Polamalu and outside linebacker Joey Porter grabbed the media spotlight, and received a warm welcome from AFC teammates.

"It's truly an honor to be on the team with all these great players that you've been looking up to your whole life," said Polamalu, whose team defeated the Seattle Seahawks, 21-10, in the Super Bowl.

"For them to wish us congratulations for winning a Super Bowl something that every football player in the league strives to win is also an honor," he added.

It's been a whirlwind week for the Steelers, who returned to Pittsburgh for a parade Tuesday after winning Sunday's Super Bowl in Detroit, and then made the 10-hour trip to Honolulu.

They buzzed about the Steel City parade that drew an estimated crowd of 250,000 despite temperatures in the 20s. During the celebration, Polamalu twice jumped from a truck into a sea of adoring fans, many of whom last celebrated a Super Bowl title in 1980. The Steelers have won five Super Bowl titles overall.

"It was a lot of fun," Polamalu said. "It was nice to be able to give back to the fans what they've been waiting for for a long time, and to see the excitement on their faces."

"A lot of times, you might think you're just playing football for yourself, for your teammates," Hartings said. "But it did make me realize how passionate the Pittsburgh Steelers' fans feel about our team. In 25-degree weather, they came out to congratulate us, and share in the accomplishment. It was pretty special."

The Steelers became the first team to win three playoff road games against the AFC's top three seeded teams and the Super Bowl, where they beat the NFC's top-seeded team. Pittsburgh narrowly qualified for the playoffs by winning its final four regular-season games.

"The accomplishments is what will stick with me forever," Hartings said. "The relationships that we built on this team ... plus the way our season went, being 7-5, and looking like nothing was going to work out. But we turned it around, and I think that made it extra special."

The Steelers return several key players, including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, Super Bowl MVP receiver Hines Ward, running back Willie Parker, and Faneca on offense, along with Polamalu, Hampton, Porter and linebacker James Farrior on defense.

Yesterday, Faneca entertained the question of the Steelers earning another Super Bowl title next season.

"Back-to-back sounds real good to me," he said. "We will have to refocus and, at some point, we will have to put this (Super Bowl victory) behind us."

Faneca also downplayed the officiating at the Super Bowl. Four plays that went against the Seahawks were deemed "questionable" by The Associated Press.

"I think in a game of that magnitude, there's going to be hype after it, and many people analyzing things," Faneca said. "It's something to talk about. That's it. I don't think it's overshadowed what we've done."

Pro Bowl players, such as Indianapolis Colts linebacker Cato June, were glad to have the Steelers for teammates.

"They took a long road to get there, and they made it happen," said June, a first-time Pro Bowler. "Troy and Joey, they're great playmakers. It's going to be fun to play with them instead of playing against them."

Hampton added: "Being around these guys, they're all congratulating you, and just being happy for you. There's no feeling like that."

Reach Brandon Masuoka at bmasuoka@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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