Steelers Notebook: Harrison tackles extra attention
January 24, 2009 5:00 AM
Peter Diana / Post-Gazette
The Steelers' heavy-hitting James Harrison
By Gerry Dulac Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Three years ago, James Harrison was a special-teams standout and backup linebacker in Super Bowl XL. Now he comes into Super Bowl XLIII as the NFL's defensive player of the year and two-time Pro Bowl selection.
All the attention, though, comes with a price: Harrison finds it tougher to get to the quarterback, even though he finished the regular season with a club-record 16 sacks, fourth best in the NFL.
"I kind of liked when they didn't focus on me; I could get through there easier," Harrison said. "Now the [offensive] line slides toward me every time. If it's not both lineman at once, then I'll get chipped. It's something you get used to.
"I started noticing it at the end of last year. I think it might be a little more this year. But it's football. You deal with it."
Offensive left tackle Max Starks (sprained knee) returned to practice wearing a knee brace, the first time he has practiced this week, and inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons also returned after missing the first two days because he was sick.
Center Justin Hartwig was limited in practice, giving him more time to rest his sprained knee.
Holmes' big plays no surprise
Wide receiver Santonio Holmes has made the big plays that ignited the team in playoff victories against the San Diego Chargers and Baltimore Ravens, and coach Mike Tomlin was not surprised.
Holmes returned a punt 67 yards for a touchdown to tie the score, 7-7, and propel the team to a 35-24 victory against San Diego. And he had a 65-yard catch-and-run for touchdown against the Ravens that gave the Steelers a 13-0 lead in what became a 23-14 victory.
"Santonio has that personality where he always wants to make that splash play," Tomlin said. "He loves that. He wants to kill you with bullets. I like that mentality with him. It's one of the reasons we try to find ways to put the ball in his hands."
There won't be any surprises for Steelers cornerback Bryant McFadden when he lines up against Cardinals wide receiver Anquan Boldin: The two were teammates at Florida State.
Boldin was a senior in 2003 when McFadden, a No. 2 pick in 2005, was a sophomore with the Seminoles.
"He was a guy who was always intense, always practicing at a high level," McFadden said. "It was something we always respected because he did the same thing on Saturdays."
A happy camper
Steelers fans attending the Super Bowl won't be the only ones who are glad the game is in Tampa, Fla.
Troy Polamalu, who sealed the trip with his interception return for touchdown in the AFC championship game, is another.
"God had mercy on us this year," Polamalu said. "He said, if I am going to send you to Detroit, I am going to send you to Tampa. It's a blessing, definitely. It will be nice, especially coming from negative degree weather to go down there. It might be like a 75-[degree] swing in temperature, but it will be nice."