Drawing a crowd


POSTED: Friday, February 06, 2009

The rules for interviewing Pro Bowl players after practice this year have changed.

Instead of the normal scenario of trying to catch them as they walk off the field, the media have been encouraged to meet them at their makeshift locker rooms back at the hotel.

But when you're the Pittsburgh Steelers, fresh off an NFL-record sixth Super Bowl championship on Sunday, rules don't apply.

As soon as the AFC finished practice yesterday, Pittsburgh's three Pro Bowl representatives—linebackers James Harrison and James Farrior and safety Troy Polamalu—were mobbed by the media after completing their first practice in Hawaii.

As is always the case, the Super Bowl champions arrived in Hawaii after a whirlwind trip that started in Tampa, Fla., site of Super Bowl XLIII, and wound through Pittsburgh for the parade before coming all the way out to the islands.

“;Man, I'm tired,”; Harrison said after finally making his way back to the hotel.

It was tiring just watching his Super Bowl-record 100-yard interception return for a touchdown in the Steelers' 27-23 victory over Arizona in what NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said yesterday was “;maybe the greatest game in the history of the NFL.”;

Harrison, the 2008 NFL defensive player of the year, finished with a career-high 101 tackles and seven forced fumbles. But even more impressive were his 16 sacks, good for fourth in the league, which helped the Steelers finish tops in the NFL in defense.

Undrafted out of Kent State, Harrison was cut four times before making an NFL roster. It took three years before Harrison made his mark with the Steelers, and he's been a force ever since.

The ultra-intense, 245-pound linebacker helped the Steelers lead the league in total yards allowed, passing yards allowed, and fewest points allowed.

“;I wanted to prove people wrong,”; Harrison said. “;I've gotten better and I've gotten smarter.”;

His work ethic separates him from most of the players in the league, and the way it has rubbed off on the rest of his teammates is a big part of the Steelers' success on defense.

“;He's very tuned into what he has to do to make himself better,”; Farrior said. “;That's all he strives for, to try to be better than anybody else, and you can see his determination when he's out there on the field.”;

This year's Pro Bowl will mark the end of a 30-year run in Hawaii. For Polamalu, who is making his fifth straight Pro Bowl appearance, seeing the game leave the islands hits home just a little bit harder.

“;It's a shame next year it's not going to be here,”; he said. “;I especially feel that way because I'm Samoan, a lot of Polynesian blood.”;

Since it could be his last time here until the game possibly comes back to Hawaii in two years, the two-time Super Bowl champion will take some time to do things not readily available back in Pittsburgh.

“;I want to surf a little bit, do some spear fishing,”; he said. “;Do the island-boy things I don't always get to do.”;

Even though Polamalu prefers the smallest waves possible, it'll be a tough sell to get Harrison to join him out in the water.

“;No surfing for me,”; Harrison said. “;Nothing crazy.”;


The Associated Press contributed to this report.