Steelers Notebook: Pro vs. GI games help boost morale

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Willie Colon belted out Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Put it this way: As a singer, he is a right oh-ffensive tackle. The dozen or so soldiers from the Pittsburgh-based 336th Military Police Battalion in Baghdad on the other end of the webcam audio yesterday could have earned Purple Hearts merely for listening.

Or, as quarterback, guitarist and virtual-band sidekick Ben Roethlisberger said to Colon during an attempt at "Kryptonite" in warming up for their Pro vs. GI Joe live video game yesterday with troops overseas, "You're terrible."

"I hope Devin gets a chance at this game," father Perry Miller of Uniontown said while looking at the screen in the Steelers' South Side team meeting room where his eldest son, Devin, 20, was seen half a world away holding an M-4 carbine rather than a "Guitar Hero" accouterment. "But he sings a lot like Willie."

Devin Miller and a group of other Western Pennsylvania Army Reservists gathered at the Camp Sather Air Base USO while a handful of other local soldiers on leave assembled in Qatar. Each had their own satellite screen and feed to play real-time game competitions against a bunch of Steelers that included guard Trai Essex on drums, Darnell "Spanky" (Roethlisberger's nickname for him) Stapleton and receiver Hines Ward. Roethlisberger, also playing the role of emcee, from the outset introduced the running backs also present: Mewelde Moore, Willie Parker, Rashard Mendenhall, Justin Vincent and Carey Davis.

Appearing before the cameras beamed back to the Middle East was a surprise guest cloaked in the grass-covered, sniper's Ghillie suit: injured star safety Troy Polamalu.

Pro vs. GI Joe is a nonprofit organization that arranges such games between troops stationed overseas and a litany of celebrities back home such as athletes, musicians, politicians and military officials. Families often join the festivities, cameras in hand, so they can connect with their soldiers via video and audio.

"Absolutely, this is awesome," said Perry Miller, who came to the Steelers' facility with his wife, Tammie, and youngest son, Brent, to have a few video moments with Devin, a Penn State sophomore. "He's a Steeler fanatic, too."

Injury update

Polamalu (knee) and starting defensive end Travis Kirschke (calf) again missed practice yesterday to complete a week of absences, meaning they will miss their fifth game overall and third consecutive, respectively, when the Steelers visit Kansas City tomorrow. Fullback Davis (hamstring) followed his Thursday return by practicing again yesterday, and he was listed as questionable after missing Sunday's loss to Cincinnati.

Kansas City yesterday listed as doubtful: starting linebacker Mike Vrabel (knee), a Steelers sub from 1997-2000; guard Andy Alleman (knee), who started his college career at Pitt before finishing at Akron; running back Dantrell Savage (ankle) and linebacker Justin Rogers (thigh). Linebacker David Herron (knee) was listed as questionable. Vrabel missed all week of practice.

Big Ben, the coverboy

Does anybody know: Is there a "Men's Fitness" cover jinx?

Well, Roethlisberger graces the December/January issue of that magazine, coming to newsstands Monday.

In the story, he talks about staying fit less with weight training in the NFL than exercise ("it's about staying flexible and keeping the muscles long"), about injuries throughout his career ("sometimes, it's just stupidity") and about his professional ambition -- three more Super Bowl rings.

"There's a quarterback who played here before me [Terry Bradshaw] who has four Super Bowls," Roethlisberger was quoted in the issue. "The goal is to get one more than him."


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