Steelers Notebook: Players pushing LeBeau for Canton

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CANTON, Ohio -- This is hallowed ground for those involved in Pro Football, where men are forever honored with bronze busts.

A number of Steelers players took it upon themselves to honor one of their own they believe should be given the sport's ultimate tribute. They wore replicas of Dick LeBeau's old No. 44 jersey from his playing days with the Detroit Lions on the bus trip to and from the game yesterday.

They wore them, they said, to bring attention to the fact that they believe strongly their defensive coordinator belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Among those who wore the jerseys were James Farrior, Casey Hampton, James Harrison, Larry Foote, Troy Polamalu, Aaron Smith, Brett Keisel and others.

LeBeau had 62 interceptions in 14 seasons as a cornerback, seventh-most in NFL history and third most when he retired. He still owns the NFL record for playing in 171 consecutive games at cornerback.

His 48 seasons in the NFL include 34 as a coach -- nine with the Steelers and three as head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals. LeBeau grew up in London, Ohio, near Columbus.

Local writer honored

John Clayton first started covering the Steelers for a daily newspaper at training camp in the summer of 1972, the year of the Immaculate Reception and shortly after he graduated from Churchill High School. He would send two stories a week to the St. Marys (Pa.) Daily Press.

Over the weekend, Clayton, long a reporter and writer for ESPN, had his name etched into a plaque at the Pro Football Hall of Fame when he accepted the Dick McCann Award, presented to him Friday night. The award comes from a vote of the Pro Football Writers Association for "distinguished writing." Clayton has been doing it for 35 years.

Clayton, a Braddock native and 1976 Duquesne University graduate, wrote for the Pittsburgh Press with the Steelers as his main focus from 1976 until 1986. He went to cover the Seattle Seahawks and the NFL for the Tacoma Tribune. He began working for ESPN part time in 1995 and full time in 1998.

Clayton joins a distinguished list of McCann Award winners, including another writer who covered the Steelers in the 1970s for the Post-Gazette, Vito Stellino.

Palko in running

Word inside the Saints is that undrafted rookie quarterback Tyler Palko likely will make it as their No. 3 quarterback. Palko, who played at Pitt and West Allegheny High School, would back up starter Drew Brees and Jamie Martin if he makes it.

Nice start

Rookie linebacker LaMarr Woodley started at left outside linebacker and played there the entire first half. He showed the kind of ability he possesses on a pass play on the New Orleans Saints' first series.

Woodley dropped into coverage from the left on third down and broke up a pass to a wide receiver on the right side of the defense 14 yards downfield.


Backup linebacker Clint Kriewaldt did not dress for the game. He has a shoulder problem from practice and coach Mike Tomlin wanted to give him a rest. Center Sean Mahan, excused from practice Friday for a family emergency, did not attend the game.

Plenty of action

Because Mahan did not make the trip Chukky Okobi played the entire first half at center. Right guard Kendall Simmons and right tackle Max Starks also played all of the first half. Guard Alan Faneca and left tackle Marvel Smith played only one series.

Starks moved to left tackle to replace Smith and Willie Colon played right tackle, a move that is not exactly a ringing endorsement for Trai Essex. A No. 3 draft pick in 2005, Essex is normally the backup at left tackle. But Essex has played sparingly since his rookie season.

Bad hands department

Wide receiver Nate Washington, plagued by drops last season, dropped the first two passes thrown in his direction. The first proved to be Ben Roethlisberger's only incompletion on the opening series. The second came on a slant pass from Charlie Batch that Washington had a chance to cradle.

Gerry Dulac contributed to this report.


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