TAMPA, Fla. -- The Rev. Jesse Jackson joined about 250 family members and friends to watch the Steelers' 38-minute walk-through yesterday morning, their final on-field preparation for the Super Bowl tonight.
Jackson was invited as a special guest by coach Mike Tomlin to attend what turned into a truly family affair on the day before the big game. Mike Reiss of the Boston Globe was the pool reporter for the event. Here was his take on it:
The Steelers did not have family members and friends at their final walkthrough practice before Super Bowl XL under former coach Bill Cowher.
"We had some people who have been special to us come to practice today -- family members and high school coaches," Tomlin said. "It's not a big deal to us, but it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for them. We wanted to show our appreciation for what they've done for us by allowing them to be a part of it."
Of Jackson's presence, Tomlin said: "I got to know him recently. He's a fan of football, a supporter of us, and we appreciate it."
Other guests included Florida State safety and Rhodes Scholar Myron Rolle, and Mike Utley, the paralyzed former Detroit Lions offensive lineman. Utley, who took a picture with Tomlin after practice, was a guest of Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert.
At the end of the practice, Tomlin called all family members and friends to the middle of a practice field at the University of South Florida, shouting instructions as a team photographer snapped a large group picture.
Asked if he was pleased with the health-related progress of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and receiver Hines Ward, Tomlin said "both guys are fine." Roethlisberger took a shot to the kidney area in the AFC championship game Jan. 18, and receiver Hines Ward strained his right knee in that game.
With the walk-through practice being held at half speed, Ward did not wear a brace over his injured right knee as he did earlier in the week.
He walked through drills at a normal pace.
Ed Bouchette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .