Steelers to play tonight

Start time changed because of Hurricane Jeanne

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DANIA BEACH, Fla. -- It took a hurricane to put the Steelers on prime time.

The NFL postponed the kickoff for the game between the Steelers and Dolphins at Miami's Pro Player Stadium until 8:30 p.m. today from its original 1 p.m. start. Officials were scheduled to huddle again today to determine if damage from Hurricane Jeanne might force them to possibly delay the game until tomorrow night.

By all indications, the game will be played tonight after Jeanne struck farther up the coast and the damage to the Miami area was expected to be minimal.

"Both coaches would like to play the game tomorrow night if possible," Art Rooney II said last night.

This is the second time a Dolphins kickoff was changed because of a hurricane. Their opener against Tennessee, scheduled for Sept. 12, was moved up a day in order to beat Hurricane Ivan. Because of their 6-10 record last season, the Steelers have only one other game scheduled in prime time, and that also will be in Florida, Dec. 5 in Jacksonville.

Jeanne, the fourth hurricane to hit Florida this season, was expected to strike land north of Miami, near Fort Pierce, between West Palm Beach and Melbourne, last night, packing 115 mph winds. The game was postponed yesterday afternoon, but NFL officials waited to set a new kickoff time until it was determined where the storm would hit. Hurricanes, like drunken sailors, often make unexpected turns.

The Dolphins and Steelers were prepared to wait until tomorrow night and even Tuesday night to play, if necessary.

Flights into Fort Lauderdale were canceled yesterday morning, and hotels in that city near the Atlantic Ocean were evacuated. The Steelers were not affected because they stayed at a Westin Hotel farther inland in Fort Lauderdale.

The Steelers arrived Friday night, moving their charter flight 20 hours ahead of their original schedule. They worked out briefly yesterday morning at Pro Player Stadium in Miami.

While it's rare for an NFL game to be moved or postponed, there have been more instances of it happening in recent years. The most famous occurred last season when brush fires ravaged the San Diego area and the Chargers' game was moved to Tempe, Ariz.

More than 500,000 residents of Florida's east coast were told Friday to evacuate. By yesterday afternoon, traffic on Interstate 95, the main north-south corridor through Florida, was flowing freely. However, hotel rooms were hard to come by.

Despite the approaching hurricane and the likely change in kickoff time, a group of Steelers fans boarded a plane for Miami Saturday. Their flight to Fort Lauderdale canceled because of the impending storms and the early high winds accompanying it, the group of fans -- decked out in Steelers T-shirts -- eagerly switched tickets to a flight that departed for Miami and arrived before noon.


Ed Bouchette can be reached at ebouchette@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3878.


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