"I heard they set it at 22 degrees," said fullback J.T. Wall.">
"I heard they set it at 22 degrees," said fullback J.T. Wall.">

Notebook: Steelers ready...cold, but ready

<b>PITTSBURGH - </b> The Steelers went indoors again for their final full practice of the week on Friday, but this time they felt like they were outdoors.<br><br>"It was freezing in there," nose tackle Chris Hoke said of the team's indoor facility. "It was in the low 20s in there."<br><br> "I heard they set it at 22 degrees," said fullback J.T. Wall.

"And it got colder as practice went on," Hoke said. "All the doors were open, the fans were blowing. It really was cold."

The game-time temperature Sunday night at Heinz Field is expected to dip into the teens, perhaps lower. If nothing else, the Steelers will be as prepared for the cold as the New England Patriots. But are they prepared for the Patriots?

"I think we're ready," Hoke said. "We had a great practice today. It was like we were on top of everything. The tempo was real good. I think we're ready to play."

Ol' Man Willie thinks so, too. And Willie Williams should know. He's the only member of the Steelers to play on the 1995 team that won the only AFC championship game under Bill Cowher.

"I think we had a great week of practice," Williams said. "Now, it's all about going out and everybody relaxing and executing the plays. Once you get out there, some guys might get so excited and lose focus, but now we've got to stay focused and just do what we've been doing all year."


Williams, of course, saved the Steelers in that 1995 AFC title game against the Indianapolis Colts. He made the tackle on Lamont Warren that not only forced a late punt, but may have saved a touchdown. The Steelers rallied to beat the Colts and go on to the Super Bowl.

Currently the left cornerback for the Steelers, Williams said he's been asked about that game "a million times. But that's OK," he said.

So, is this team as prepared as that team was?

"I think it's the same," he said. "Maybe we've got even more readiness. A lot of guys are more focused. We did extra stuff, watched extra film. It was the same thing we did in '95. It's hard to say what's different, but the focus is there."

Williams, 34, was picked up off the scrap heap last spring by the Steelers. He moved into the starting lineup when Chad Scott was injured against the Dallas Cowboys in the sixth game of the season.

Scott is healthy, but Williams remains entrenched at left cornerback. Last week, he thwarted a handful of deep passes from Chad Pennington of the New York Jets. Williams said he wasn't surprised the Jets were picking on him.

"I'm older," he said with a smile. "Of course they're going to pick on the older guy."

Williams was asked if he's playing better than ever before in his 12-year career.

"I feel good. I guess you could say that," he said. "I just got a lot of stuff to prove. There's a lot of stuff on my shoulders. I'm trying to get people to respect me, that's all."

When will quarterbacks stop picking on him?

"I don't know," said the 5-9, 194-pounder. "When I grow to about 6-3 they'll stop picking on me, so I guess the answer is never."


Mel Blount is one of four former members of the Steelers' 1979 championship team named to serve as honorary captains for Sunday's game. Blount, Joe Greene, L.C. Greenwood and Rocky Bleier will join the Steelers' captains at midfield for the pre-game coin toss.

On Friday, Blount, the Hall of Fame cornerback, was in the locker room after practice. He was asked for a prediction.

"The Steelers," he said. "They're 15-1. How can you not like them?"

Blount said he watched the Steelers in preseason, but didn't think they were special until mid-season.

"When they beat the two undefeated teams, you had to know that they were a pretty special group," he said. "The Steelers are going to win it. I don't know if they'll win it by three or by 20, but they're going to win it. I believe that."

And the overriding factor?

"Talent," he said. "Sheer talent."


Patriots coach Bill Belichick when asked about the Steelers' wide receivers:

"They have two big, physical guys and (Antwaan) Randle El is a very quick, excellent route runner. He does a terrific job. (Plaxico) Burress and (Hines) Ward. What can you say about Ward? The guy has been just a tremendous producer for them. He is, I think, one of the best all-around players in the league as a receiver -- long balls, short balls, run after the catch, possession receiver, big-play receiver. He is outstanding."

Belichick when asked about Ward in particular:

"He is one of the most complete players in the league at any position because he is good in the running game. He is good in the passing game. His consistency is outstanding."

Belichick when asked about his linebackers' responsibilities in coverage:

"The thing with the Steelers on play-action is they are not looking to throw play-action for a 2-yard gain. When they throw play-action and hit it, it hurts. It's 15, 20, 25, 30 yards. The linebackers, after they recognize it, need to get back into those intermediate areas and take those routes away or it's going to be a 20, 25-yard gain. You only need a couple of those and they are down the field. That is really the problem for the linebackers."

Belichick when asked if the best rushing team will win the game:

"Not to be funny, but whichever team scores the most points, that is the team that is going to win."

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