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Teams hunker down for showdown

AS the crowds began rolling into the Super Bowl city, the two teams began hunkering down, trying to ignore the party breaking out all around them.

In these last, critical days leading to the big game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals in Tampa, Florida, everyone must keep his eyes on the ball. No one wants to join the infamous list that includes Stanley Wilson, Eugene Robinson and Barret Robbins.

"I have listened to what some of the veterans have said as far as 'Don't go out and experience the nightlife' and I understand that," said Carey Davis, the Steelers' third-year fullback. "Sunday's game is an opportunity to be remembered, and that is what we want to do."

Wilson, Robinson and Robbins are remembered for all the wrong reasons.

Start with Wilson, who played fullback for the Cincinnati Bengals. On the eve of the 1989 Super Bowl, he headed back to his hotel room just before the last pregame meeting, supposedly to get his playbook. When he didn't return, a coach found Wilson collapsed in the bathroom, strung out on cocaine. Naturally, he didn't play in a 16-20 loss to San Francisco, which might have turned out differently if Wilson had played on a sloppy field that likely would have suited his running style.

A decade later, Robinson made a stunningly bad decision the night before the Super Bowl. A safety for the Atlanta Falcons and one of the team leaders, he ventured out from the team hotel and wound up in handcuffs for soliciting sex from an undercover police officer. He was up for most of the evening, meeting and praying with teammates, then got burned on a long touchdown pass in Denver's 34-19 victory.

Robbins was a Pro Bowl center who went missing the day before Oakland's 2003 appearance in the title game. He was eventually found drunk and incoherent in Mexico, spending Super Bowl Sunday in a hospital while his teammates were blown out 21-48 by Tampa Bay.

"I'm just trying to stay grounded," Steelers center Justin Hartwig said.

"We're here for one reason, and that's to win this game. There's a lot of hoopla and a lot of hype surrounding this game, but I'm not going to get caught up in it."

Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin expects his team to treat every game with the same professionalism, whether it's the Super Bowl or a preseason match. Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt was taking no chances. He imposed a curfew for the entire week, instead of just waiting until yesterday as he normally would for a road game. No one revealed the exact details, but it likely involves a bedtime that gets earlier and earlier the closer it gets to game time.

While the Steelers will be seeking their record sixth Super Bowl triumph, the Cardinals will be looking for their first since the game was created in 1967.

Few National Football League franchises have a worse record than the Cardinals. They have had just two winning seasons since leaving St. Louis after the 1987 campaign and both were 9-7.

The franchise last won 10 games in 1976 and has not won the NFL title since 1947 when they were the Chicago Cardinals.

Tomorrow's (Shanghai time) game will highlight Arizona's high-powered offense, led by former Super Bowl MVP Kurt Warner, against the top-rated Steelers defense.


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