Notebook: Dermontti for Hall

Dermontti Dawson and Rod Woodson are among the semifinalists for this year's Hall of Fame vote. Woodson is a shoe-in, but Dawson needs help. Patriots coach Bill Belichick did just that for the Pittsburgh Steelers' great center.

PITTSBURGH – Seventeen NFL players have been named to six consecutive AP All-Pro first teams, when the AP only named one team (not NFL and AFL teams). And 15 of those 17 are in the Hall of Fame.

The 16th, Larry Allen, is not yet eligible. The 17th is the great Steelers center Dermontti Dawson.

Dawson's in his fourth year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame, and this week he was named a semifinalist for the fourth time. He's never advanced past this stage, which, at best, is a travesty.

"He was just a genetic mutation with his size and strength and speed and explosiveness," said former Steelers tackle Tunch Ilkin. "Mike Webster was the best ever, and a lot of Miami Dolphins fans would argue that Dwight Stephenson was the best. So it's an argument between Webby, for his tenacity, physical strength and toughness, and Stephenson for his athleticism. Well, you put Webby and Dwight Stephenson together and you have Dermontti Dawson." P

atriots Coach Bill Belichick also weighed in on Dawson.

"He was one of the best players that we have ever played against at that position. He had exceptional quickness," Belichick said. "I think that really the measure of a center is his ability to play against powerful guys that are lined up over him and try to bull-rush the pocket and collapse it in the middle so that the quarterback can't step up. Dawson had great leverage and quickness with his hands and his feet where he did a great job of keeping that pocket clean for (Neil) O'Donnell and those guys who played behind him.

"The other thing that I think was a key to the Pittsburgh running game for years," Belichick said, "is when the nose tackle or the defensive tackle is offset to the play side. If you are running to the right and the nose tackle is lined up in the center-guard gap on the right, or sometimes even on the inside shoulder of the guard, that is a very hard block for the center to get. Defensively, you feel like they should not be able to cut him off from the center position. But Dawson made that block consistently. He could reach to the front side of the play, which enabled the Steelers to pull their guards and their tackles and get to the edge on all of those off-tackle plays that all their backs ran so well and gained so many yards on. Without him making those blocks inside, a lot of those runs for (Jerome) Bettis and (Barry) Foster would not have been able to get downhill like they did. As great as those Steelers' running games were over the last decade-and-a half, when I played against them, the effectiveness of the center position has had a lot to do with that. Dawson was outstanding, as well as his protection in the passing game."

INJURY REPORT

RB Willie Parker (knee), DE Brett Keisel (knee) and OT Marvel Smith (back) missed Wednesday's practice, but Keisel and Smith have been ruled out of Sunday's game against the Patriots. Parker is questionable, but that may turn to doubtful since the Steelers brought Najeh Davenport in for a physical. No announcement had been made on Davenport's behalf as of press time Wednesday night.

Missing practice Wednesday for the Patriots were DE Richard Seymour (knee), LB Adalius Thomas (forearm) and WR Kelley Washington (thigh). Limited in practice were LB Tedy Bruschi (knee), CB Ellis Hobbs (shoulder), RB LaMont Jordan (calf) and DE Ty Warren (groin).

QUOTABLE

Hines Ward on whether the Steelers will again pass more because of their lagging run game:

"We're not going to steer away from anything. We've just got to execute. We're on edge a little bit. We don't have all 11 guys on the same page. We've gotten better but we're still leaving some plays out there. It's not fundamentals, it's just, assignment-wise, we're not getting on the same page and that's something we've got to start doing, especially in the latter part of the year. We can't be messing up on run plays or pass plays that we've been running since training camp, and that's been the case of late. The plays we've been running since training camp, we're not executing the way we're supposed to."


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