FORT WORTH, Texas -- Hundreds of fans welcomed the Steelers to their headquarters hotel here this afternoon, with a parade of police cars and motorcycles as an escort, with entire buildings decked out with images of players, and with reporters, cameras and microphones following everywhere.
A big deal?
Maybe not for these guys.
"Honestly, I just went up to my room and took a little nap," veteran linebacker James Farrior said, smiling. "I guess I'll take a look around later."
Yeah, that generally was the sentiment for a franchise fortunate enough to be playing its third Super Bowl in six years: Been there, done that, and bring on the game already.
Even the player who appeared to have the most fun with the Steelers' arrival -- wide receiver Hines Ward showed up in a Texas-style black cowboy hat and matching attire -- seemed to see it that way.
"A lot of guys have experienced this before, so there's a comfort level of being here," Ward said. "At the end of the day, though, it doesn't give us an advantage or a disadvantage. We still have to win the game. Our motivation for being here is to win the Lombardi Trophy."
That must wait until Sunday night, when Steelers face the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV.
For one day, though, the state's Metroplex was alive with anticipation: A hotel in downtown Dallas was decorated with gigantic images of the Steelers' Troy Polamalu -- his hair alone took up about three or four stories -- and Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Billboards on Interstate 30, the connector between Dallas and Fort Worth, congratulated both teams on their conference championships. Street banners flew everywhere. Makeshift merchandise stands filled sidewalks.
Even most of the fans welcoming the Steelers at the hotel appeared to be Texans, though they were anything but supporters of the local Cowboys.
"To me, finally seeing my favorite team, the team I've loved since a little girl, that's a blessing," said Shirley Hunt of Dallas, originally from Mississippi. "I've never been to Pittsburgh, but I've always been a fan because I've always liked what the Steelers represent, a true team."
Some were expatriates.
John Simon moved from Braddock in 1974 and now lives just north of Fort Worth, but he and 8-year-old son Jake were decked out in black and gold. He said he cannot afford tickets to the Super Bowl, most of which are now selling in the $2,000 range, but he wanted to show his support in this small way.
"I've been away from Pittsburgh for so long," Simon said. "Now, it feels like the Steelers have come to us."
Others were more difficult to explain.
Arland Costello's wife, Catherine, jokingly suggested to him last week that they drive to Fort Worth to be near the Steelers, even if they, too, could not afford game tickets. And even if that drive would cover 21 hours from their home in Lansing, Mich.
"I had to open my mouth," Catherine said, wearing a Polamalu No. 43 jersey.
"We did this in 2008 when the Steelers were in Tampa for the Super Bowl, and we had a great time just being part of the experience," Arland said. "If someone would guarantee we'd win, I'd probably come up with the dime for the tickets. But if they lost and it cost me $2,000, I'd probably be on suicide watch."'
The Steelers' plane landed at Dallas/Fort Worth International at 11:30 a.m. local time. While taxiing to the gate, the US Airways pilots, James Cameron and Paul Dickson, opened their windows and twirled Terrible Towels in another familiar scene.
Shortly after noon, their four-bus entourage made the turn onto Houston Street in downtown Fort Worth, energizing the 250 or so fans who gathered at the hotel to greet the team. Fort Worth police patrolled alongside the buses with lights flashing and rigid formations, as if it were a presidential motorcade.
Many of the Steelers, including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, used handheld devices to record fans even as the fans were doing likewise.
"It's a great time for all of us, and I think it's a great thing for football," Roethlisberger said. "The neat part is that it's two storied franchises, and that's the part that I think fans will really enjoy."
Farrior, Ward, Polamalu and Roethlisberger are four of the 18 players on the roster who already have two Super Bowl rings with the Steelers. That might explain why coach Mike Tomlin sounded as if he were going against his better judgment by encouraging his players to soak in the atmosphere this week.
To an extent.
"We're excited about being here, and I'm not going to fight against that," Tomlin said. "Part of you is somewhat resistant to it, but our intent is to enjoy it and, ultimately, prepare to play football. The people of Big D have been great so far."
No one seemed to enjoy the first day here more than 35-year-old guard Flozell Adams, and that is saying something considering Adams rarely is seen smiling. His offensive linemates orchestrated a tribute to Adams, who once played for the Cowboys, by wearing the green jerseys of his alma mater, Michigan State, with his old No. 76.
"That kind of surprised me," Adams said. "I'm really humbled that they did that for me."
Dejan Kovacevic: email@example.com . Find more at the "DK on Pittsburgh Sports" blog at www.post-gazette.com/plus First Published January 31, 2011 10:30 PM