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Steelers arrive for Super Bowl relaxed and confident

THE one question hanging over the Pittsburgh Steelers as their practice week begins for the Super Bowl is whether wide receiver Hines Ward will play with a sprained knee.

Here's the answer:

"I'm playing," Ward said yesterday after arriving with his teammates. "I would have played if the game had been last week."

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was startled anyone would doubt that one of the NFL's toughest and most physical offensive players -- and the Super Bowl MVP three years ago -- would play.

"People ask me that question and I want to smack them," Roethlisberger said. "It's Hines Ward, he's going to be out here. It's the Super Bowl."

Ward was hurt in the first quarter of the AFC championship game with Baltimore and never returned. He has been listed as questionable for the Super Bowl. Coach Mike Tomlin said Ward wouldn't practice tomorrow, but noted this was nothing unusual.

The Steelers are appearing in their seventh Super Bowl, only one fewer than the Cowboys' record eight, and will try to win their sixth title -- more than any other team.

It was tough to tell the rookies from the veterans as the team arrived for Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals. They weren't overwhelmed with the media throng, and they knew how to handle the large crowds of Steelers fans who drove by their Tampa hotel cheering "Here we go, Steelers."

Half the Steelers' starters, including Roethlisberger, remain from the last Super Bowl victory, when Pittsburgh beat Seattle in 2006.

"We embrace all that's involved in the Super Bowl," Tomlin said. "We're down here to play, we're down here to win. I'm sure there's 30 other teams in the NFL that would like to have this burden this week."

Maybe it's an attitude of been here, won that.

"One of the first things coach Tomlin said was, 'Does everybody in here believe we can raise the Vince Lombardi Trophy?' " defensive lineman Brett Keisel said. "Everyone said, 'Yeah.' That's always been his point of emphasis ever since. Now we're sitting here with an excellent opportunity to do so. Now, it's about seizing this opportunity."

All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu credits the Steelers' attitude to their self-imposed discipline, one in which they demand that newly arrived players buy into a team concept. One that sometimes seems to be missing during a time when success can be measured not in championships, but by the size of a player's contract.

"The leaders on our team - James Farrior, Deshea Townsend, Hines Ward -they understand what it takes to be successful, and what it takes is obediency," Polamalu said. "We're a very obedient team. You could tell us to tell anything, we'll do it, if our head coach tells us to do, whether it's good or not. That obediency allows us to be closer together."


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