PUTTING SUPER BOWL INTO PERSPECTIVE
Steelers DE Aaron Smith learned three months ago that his 5-year-old son, Elijah, has lymphoblastic leukemia, a form of cancer that attacks the white blood cells.
The prognosis is promising - an 80 percent survival rate - but Elijah is only beginning what is expected to be a 31/2-year recovery period. Still to come: more intensive chemotherapy, more sleepless nights, more worry, more uncertainty.
"The way it started out was that he had a fever longer than five days, so we just went to the hospital initially to just get some blood work done and see what was going on," Smith said. "And then we found out he had leukemia."
Smith was reluctant to talk about his son's illness until the Steelers held a post-Christmas blood drive in their locker room. Once news of his son's situation became public, hundreds of fans lined up on short notice to donate. A grateful Smith went from donor to donor, shaking hands.
His teammates, aware of Smith's reluctance to talk about the illness, offered no hint of what Smith was going through. The diagnosis came the week of an important game against the Giants, and Smith missed the entire week of practice. Not only did he show up to play, he made five tackles.
Smith and his wife, Jaimie, also have three young daughters. He has called on his faith to help him deal with Elijah's crisis.
"The Lord has worked amazingly in his spirits and his cheerfulness," Smith said. "He's just unbelievable."
BIG PRAISE FOR BIG BEN
While Pittsburgh's top-rated defense gets much of the credit for helping the Steelers reach Super Bowl XLIII, offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said he doesn't think QB Ben Roethlisberger gets enough respect for what he has done during the team's run this season.
"Especially when you look at what's he's done with all of the injuries that we've had on offense and the come-from-behind victories this year that got us here. We're not here without him, even with our defense," Arians said.
"There are some great defenses out there that don't have quarterbacks on the other side of the ball, when times are needed, like him. He is the reason we are here. It is a team thing but I hope he gets his due, because he deserves it."
TALK IS CHEAP
Steelers DT Casey Hampton has a pretty good idea why there hasn't been any verbal jabbing coming from his team as it prepares for Sunday's Super Bowl against the Cardinals.
"Joey Porter is not here," Hampton said. "That's the bottom line. He was the only one really talking three years ago. He's a talker; that's what he did."
Porter, who has been known during his 10-year career for making colorful comments, helped Pittsburgh win Super Bowl XL but left following the 2006 season and signed with Miami. Hampton said the current Steelers choose to do their talking another way.
"We do our talking on the field with our pads. We go out there and we do our thing," Hampton said. "I have never seen a game won in a press conference, so that's how we look at it."
STEELERS WIN, STEELERS WIN
According to the official EA Sports simulation of Super Bowl XLIII by "Madden NFL 09," the Steelers will defeat the Cardinals and win an unprecedented sixth Super Bowl.
Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger threw three touchdown passes to earn Super Bowl MVP honors in the Steelers' 28-24 win.
Of course, the simulation done by EA Sports for Super Bowl XLII had the New England Patriots downing the New York Giants 38-30. The Giants prevailed 17-14 and prevented the Patriots from becoming the second team in NFL history to complete an undefeated season.
To EA Sports' credit, the Super Bowl simulation the company ran in the five years prior to Super Bowl XLII - one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history - correctly predicted the winner each time.
MOTIVATION OFF THE CUFF
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin hasn't spent any time this week working on the final rallying speech he will deliver to his team tonight. He never does.
"I make a conscious effort to wing it," Tomlin said Friday. "I think that's real. I think our guys relate to that; it's the way I deal with them for the most part.
"This week has been tougher than most in terms of trying to keep those thoughts out of my mind, because there's a lot to say. But at the same time, I'm intent on doing that. I'm going to just walk in and communicate with them like I always do. I never prepare for a night-before-the-game speech."