A thousand tales in the Steel City

DETROIT – Sometimes there are so many characters involved in the plot that a notes column writes itself. This is one of those times:

• Bill Cowher looked like a big kid accepting the Lombardi Trophy after the game. I assume he'll be as light on his feet with the critics who said he couldn't win the big game.

• I don't know if I was as much a critic as I was a marker of time and score. Either way, Cowher is Bud Grant no more. Cowher is an NFL Hall of Famer, the face of Pittsburgh. He makes me proud to be from Pittsburgh.

• Pure joy in the Cowher family. That line came from a TV analyst. The unfolding of it was beautiful. Pure joy.

• I thought I heard Jerome Bettis boom a farewell over the P.A. system. Then I heard a line I could understand: "It's official like the referee's whistle."

• Bettis pulled his baby girl up there with him and he was the Big Daddy of Steeler Nation. What I'll remember most about Bettis is not his rumbling running style, or his halfback option passes, or the crushing lead block he threw Sunday night on Ben Roethlisberger's quarterback sweep. What I'll remember most is that Bettis could not say no.

• Next up on the Jumbotron in these surreal surroundings was Troy Polamalu and his lovely bride, whom he brought into the interview area. More pure joy.

• The swashbuckling Joey Porter was next. He ripped into the media for asking questions about Jerramy Stevens, and then continued to berate those reporters in the locker room just for fun. Porter looks like he could follow in Greg Lloyd's late-career footsteps, but I don't think Porter has hatred in his heart. He's more amusing than mean.

• Somebody predicted before the game that Roethlisberger would lead the Steelers to two more Super Bowl appearances in the next five years. I didn't agree at the time, but after his lackluster performance Sunday I'm leaning in that direction.

• Rebel Roethlisberger is a lone wolf, and I pictured him a one-and-done type, like Jim McMahon. It's better to burn out than to fade away, right? But after Roethlisberger played below his standards Sunday in the Super Bowl, I believe he'll be driven to come back and do it the right way.

• He'll use the media to motivate him, I'm sure. Can someone find anyone besides a reporter to motivate them these days?

• As for this "We shocked the world" business, I know plenty of fans and reporters who picked the Steelers to win it all this year. It wasn't much of a stretch to predict a 15-1 team would come back and win it all, but some of us didn't waver when they were 7-5.

• These are some of the reasons the Seahawks didn't take over a game that was gift-wrapped for them in the first half: the kick coverage of Clint Kriewaldt and James Harrison; the pass rush of Clark Haggans; the penalty-selling skills of Chris Hope; the end-zone pass defense from Bryant McFadden; the softness of Jerramy Stevens; the third-and-3 tackle by Deshea Townsend to hold Mack Strong to 2.98 yards.

• An underplayed reason the Steelers took control in the second half was the play of right tackle Max Starks. The big guy got out to seal off middle backer Totupu on Willie Parker's touchdown run. Starks also hustled down the field in pursuit of Kelly Herndon during the long interception return. Randle El slowed Herndon down and Starks mowed him over from behind. Starks became the asterisk to both record-setting plays.

• The Seahawks will comb through the play-by-play sheet and find a hundred and one reasons for not taking over the game against the slow-starting Steelers, but losing teams always do.

• The 21-10 score would've been the score of the Colts game had Polamalu's interception been called correctly.

• The Pittsburgh Steelers still haven't played their best game. The 41-0 win over the Browns was close, but it was the Browns. So we have reason to believe the Steelers' best football is yet to come.

• That perfect game would be difficult without offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, who'd be crazy to leave this young championship team for the Oakland Raiders.

• Whisenhunt deserves a raise. So does Antwaan Randle El. The New England Patriots are said to be very interested in this free agent-to-be, and that would double the impact of losing an underrated playmaker.

• Omar Khan's priorities in free agency should be Randle El, Deshea Townsend and Brett Keisel.

• Depending on what happens with Randle El, Kevin Colbert's priorities in the draft should be linebacker or wide receiver.

• And then we'll all meet here again next year. Mark the schedule.

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