Tomlin ecstatic

The man who hired Mike Tomlin for his first football job at VMI was just hired to coach West Virginia. But the bigger news concerns Troy Polamalu, new kick returners, and a heavy, heavy burden for Darnell Stapleton.

PITTSBURGH – As he passed a group of reporters in the hallway of the Steelers' South Side practice facility at lunch time yesterday, Coach Mike Tomlin began shouting.

"Bill Stewart, baby!" Tomlin said. "Best thing that happened all day!"

Tomlin had obviously heard the news that Stewart was named the new West Virginia University head coach. Why was he so excited?

"He's a special man in my life for lot of reasons. He gave me my first job," Tomlin explained later in the day. "He showed me how to express the love and enthusiasm I have for this game as a coach. He cares about people. It oozes out of his everyday existence. He's an awesome coach, an awesome man. I'm happy for West Virginia. They truly picked the right man for the job."

Tomlin was asked if the rumor was true, that he had called the WVU president Wednesday morning to lend support for Stewart's bid.

"I'd like to leave that private," Tomlin said. "I don't want to leave private the support and love I have for Bill Stewart."

So what did Tomlin think of WVU's 48-28 upset of Oklahoma on Wednesday night?

"It was football justice," he said. "If you know Bill Stewart, you love Bill Stewart."

Mike Lorello knows Stewart. Before Lorello joined the Steelers' practice squad, he played for WVU.

"He's been there as long as West Virginia has been on the rise," Lorello said. "He was a big part of it, just like any of the coaches were. He has the respect of the players, so it'll be real easy to continue the success that's been there. Instead of someone trying to come in and install a new program, new morals, new discipline, stuff like that, it's just going to be a rollover."

NO TROY OR ROSSUM

Cornerbacks Bryant McFadden and Deshea Townsend returned to practice Thursday, as did wide receiver Hines Ward. But with only one practice day left before Saturday night's playoff game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, strong safety Troy Polamalu remains sidelined with a knee injury.

Polamalu missed three games with the injury before returning to play Jacksonville and St. Louis. He sat out the Baltimore game and has missed both practices this week. Polamalu said the swelling had subsided, but that his knee needed further rest.

"We'll find out (Friday)," he said. "I'll try to run around a little bit (Friday)."

"(Friday) is going to be a big day," said Tomlin. "(Thursday) was a big day, a big rehab day. He took some steps and (Friday) he'll be ready."

He'll be ready to try to practice?

"He will not try (Friday), he will do," Tomlin said. "He will practice. Everyone is in agreement: Troy needs to practice (Friday)."

Rossum (hamstring) has also missed both practices this week. Willie Reid, Najeh Davenport and Cedrick Wilson took his place as kickoff returners, and Santonio Holmes replaced him as the punt returner.

"We'll leave no stone unturned to make sure we have quality men back there ready to play," Tomlin said.

The coach was asked if he would use a return man such as Davenport – who's also a starter on offense – only when a TV timeout was scheduled after the kick return.

"It's time to leave it all out there, bro," Tomlin said. "We're not going to save any nuts. We're not going to squirrel them. We're going to be ready to play."

BOUNTY HUNTER

Hines Ward can't say for sure, but he believes the Baltimore Ravens had a bounty out for him last Sunday and were disappointed he didn't play.

"You laugh, but at the same time it's cowardly," he said. "Why does a team have to put it out? Why can't an individual come out and get redemption?

"Hey, I don't know if it was officially a bounty but I wouldn't doubt it, and I wouldn't get mad at it. It is what it is. Those guys don't like the way I play, but I didn't do anything that they wouldn't do."

Ward, of course, hammered linebacker Bart Scott with a legal block during the teams' first meeting of the season, and Ward also hit Ed Reed so hard the Ravens' safety couldn't play the following week.

Ward was asked if any of the Jaguars might feel the same way about him that the Ravens do.

"No, but they know I'm going to hit them just like they're going to hit me," he said. "It's the playoffs. You've got to expect it. If you haven't been watching film, know that I'm going to hit you. I've watched film on Jacksonville and I know they're going to hit me."

PICKING UP THE TAB

On his weekly radio show on WDVE, Ward spoke about the annual end-of-season position parties and the rookies who pay for them. Ward said the most expensive party was the offensive line's with a tab of $23,000.

The rookies at the position normally split the tab, but Darnell Stapleton is the only rookie offensive lineman and he was forced to pay for it all.

"Yes I did," said Stapleton, "but it wasn't $23,000."

Veteran Sean Mahan said the veterans rang up a bill somewhere between $12,000 and $16,000 at The Capital Grille the Monday after the loss to New England. Mahan also said he doesn't feel bad for Stapleton, an undrafted free agent.

"Last year, at our rookie dinner in Tampa, we spent $45,000. He got off easy," Mahan said.

What does one buy with that kind of money?

"Louis XIII (cognac), expensive wine, a bunch of food. It all adds up pretty quickly," Mahan said.

Stapleton was asked whether he was dumbfounded by the bill or whether he expected to incur such heavy damages.

"I didn't expect that much. You can say I was dumbfounded," he said. "I had a good time … till the bill came."


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