Super Bowl Notebook: Hot Rod to enter Hall

TAMPA – Rod Woodson will become the 20th member of the Pittsburgh Steelers to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame after being voted in Saturday in his first year of eligibility.

Woodson will enter the Hall of Fame on Aug. 8 when the Tennessee Titans play the Buffalo Bills in the Hall of Fame Game at Canton, Ohio.

He'll be joined in the Class of 2009 by Randall McDaniel, Bruce Smith, Derrick Thomas, Ralph Wilson and Bob Hayes.

Woodson was the No. 1 draft pick of the Steelers out of Purdue in 1987. Before leaving as a free agent following the 1996 season, Woodson was named to seven Pro Bowls, was a first-team All-Pro five times, and was the Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year in 1993. He intercepted 38 passes with the Steelers (fourth all-time) and is the organization's all-time leader in kickoff return yardage (4,894), kickoff returns (220), punt return yardage (2,362) and punt returns (256).

Woodson continued his career with San Francisco (1997), Baltimore (1998-2001) and Oakland (2002-03). Overall, he was named to 11 Pro Bowls, six first-team All-Pro teams, intercepted 71 passes (third all-time), and scored 16 touchdowns on interception, kickoff and punt returns.

Woodson said he'll choose between two lifelong friends from his hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana, to present him into the Hall.

"I'm pinching myself," Woodson said. "It's so surreal."

The others who were voted in:

* McDaniel played guard for the Minnesota Vikings from 1988-2001 and was named to 12 Pro Bowls.

* Smith played defensive end for the Buffalo Bills and Washington Redskins from 1985-2003. His 200 sacks rank first in the NFL since the statistic has been kept.

* Thomas played outside linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs from 1989-99. He had 126.5 sacks and was a two-time All-Pro first-teamer.

Wilson is the owner and founder of the Buffalo Bills.

* Hayes, voted upon by the Seniors Committee, played wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys from 1965-75 and was a two-time first-team All-Pro who made 371 catches and averaged 20 yards per reception.


Hines Ward is listed as probable with a sprained MCL, but quarterback Ben Roethlisberger isn't even listed on the injury reporter after an Internet writer attempted to scare up a story by insisting Roethlisberger underwent an X-ray on his back in the middle of the week. Pool reports indicate that Roethlisberger has looked sharp in practice all week and Mike Tomlin denied Roethlisberger had undergone an X-ray.

As for Ward, he'll wear a brace, just as he did throughout the 2007 season.

"It was a little more severe," Ward said of the 2007 season. "I played all last year, so I'm pretty sure I can play one more game for the Super Bowl."

The Cardinals list DE Antonio Smith (knee) as probable, and RB J.J. Arrington (knee), P Ben Graham (groin) and DE Travis LaBoy (biceps) as questionable. Smith practiced all week, but the other three have been limited.


The Steelers have only six non-winning records in their last 22 seasons, and the common denominator has been an offense that ran the ball 48 percent of the time or less. That's what makes this season's 45-55 run-pass ratio such an anomaly. But it's led to an unpredictability, said Max Starks, and that has helped the offense.

"We have a nice array of things that keep teams off balance," said the Steelers' left tackle. "Looking back, we had teams that said, ‘We are going to run the ball right here, you are not going to stop it, and guess what? We're going to do it again.' Now you don't know what's going to happen from play to play. You don't know what personnel's going to come in. You don't know where people are going to come in and line up. It adds a nice confusion and it makes defenses play more honest. It's something that's helped us a lot and has helped us get to this point."


Steelers fans began calling for the heads of assistant coaches Bob Ligashesky and Larry Zierlein since early in the 2007 season. But Ligashesky's special teams ranked first and fourth in kickoff and punt coverage, and Zierlein's offensive line has evolved into a cohesive unit, even though only one starter remains from opening day 2007.

"Nobody's taken more heat than him," that one starter, Willie Colon, said of Zierlein. "But a lot of what we do is a reflection on him. He took a lot of criticism last year and he came back this year and stuck with us and believed in us more than anybody. He's the one person that deserves most of the credit. He kept our heads afloat when we had the tough games against Philadelphia, Indianapolis and the Giants. He always stuck by us. We felt the heat from him, but we also realized we were going to be all right. So, I think with all the credit we take, he deserves it just as much."


Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison is a man of few words, but he makes them count. Here's a quick sampling from the week:

* On his personality – "It's not like I'm this raging madman you all seem to want to think I am."

* On the defense drawing comparisons to the Steel Curtain – "It was a different era back then. They used to run the ball a whole lot more than they do now."

* On his public persona – "I could care less. As long as I'm comfortable with me, that's all that matters. I was born by myself, and I'm going to die by myself."


Those in the know have promised a "fast field" for tonight's game at Raymond James Stadium. Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton agrees.

"It's nice," Hampton said. "It's kind of like the field at (the University of) Texas. It's a couple of inches high, really nice and soft, and it seems like it's really fast."

That would likely favor the Steelers, who haven't been able to display their team speed in a while.

"Once we get the opportunity to play in beautiful weather, we should definitely take full advantage of it," said receiver Santonio Holmes. "The guys are definitely going to be flying all around the field. We can reflect back to the Jacksonville game. It was our first game in a while that we played in this climate and we went down and took care of the job."


* Justin Hartwig on Super Bowl nerves: "I've been watching these old Super Bowl games on NFL Network and you see the looks on the faces of the guys on the sidelines, and they're just stoic. Everyone just has no expression on their face and they're nerved out about what's going on and wondering what's going to happen. Kendall Simmons told me he was almost hyperventilating until halftime in the last Super Bowl game. So I know emotions will be running high, and I think that will carry us through the game and that's how I expect us to play at the highest level."

* Ben Roethlisberger on what the game means: "For me, it's about getting that sixth one for the Rooney family, giving the family one more than any other team, and for our fans. That would mean so much to our fans because they already think we are the best thing in the world, and if we could give them some proof and evidence of that it would be awesome."

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