on February 1, 2009 by in Uncategorized, Comments (0)

Steelers invite families to final Super Bowl drill

TAMPA, Fla. — The Pittsburgh Steelers finished their Super Bowl preparations on Saturday with something that’s usually missing from game-week practices: a crowd.

With an estimated 250 friends and family members watching, plus the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the Steelers held a 38-minute walkthrough at the University of South Florida. Among the guests were Florida State safety Myron Rolle, the recently appointed Rhodes Scholar, and Mike Utley, the former Detroit Lions lineman who was paralyzed while playing in a 1991 game.

“We had some people who have been special to us come to practice today — family members and high school coaches,” coach Mike Tomlin told a pool reporter assigned by the Pro Football Writers of America. “It’s not a big deal to us, but it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for them. We wanted to show our appreciation for what they’ve done for us by allowing them to be a part of it.”

When the practice ended, Tomlin huddled the guests in the middle of the practice field for a group photograph. Tomlin then spent more than a half-hour signing autographs and taking pictures. Many players brought video cameras and recorded their families enjoying the practice.

The Steelers had no such guests at their walkthrough practice before the Super Bowl three years ago in Detroit, when Bill Cowher was coach.

Asked why Jackson attended as his guest, Tomlin said, “I got to know him recently. He’s a fan of football, a supporter of us, and we appreciate it.”

Tomlin could become the second black coach to win the Super Bowl if the Steelers defeat the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday night. The first was former Colts coach Tony Dungy, Tomlin’s mentor and the man who hired Tomlin as an NFL assistant in Tampa Bay.

Utley was the guest of Kevin Colbert, director of football operations for the Steelers.

“I had the good fortune of working for the Detroit Lions when Mike Utley was one of our players, and it was real special to have him be able to share this with us,” Colbert said.