On the Steelers: Respect thine enemy
If this is the end for the great Ray Lewis, the Steelers are sorry to see him go. Bitter division rivals with the Baltimore Ravens for nearly the entire 17 years Lewis has played there, the Steelers nonetheless seemed to have enjoyed the experience. They were not happy to see him leave with perhaps a career-ending torn triceps muscle last week. "He's a trend-setter," said Troy Polamalu. "He was the prototype and what everybody wanted in their middle linebacker."
• • • •
The Steelers drafted Polamalu and Ike Taylor in 2003, and they played the season finale in Baltimore, where the Ravens put on a show to introduce their starting lineups before each game.
"One of my favorite moments ever," Polamalu said, "in my rookie year, watching the starting lineups. I said man, this is the 8th wonder of the world. It was really amazing. I remember Ike and I looked at each other and our jaws dropped."
He recalled another moment from the 2003 opener at Heinz Field. Linebacker Joey Porter could not play because a week earlier he was shot in the butt.
After tackling Amos Zereoue for no gain in the first quarter, Lewis mimicked Porter's patented celebration.
"He came out and did 'the boot,' and Joey went out there and almost fought him,'' Polamalu recalled almost gleefully.
Linebacker LaMarr Woodley, who grew up in Michigan, wore a Ray Lewis jersey in high school.
"I knew the type of player he was and the intensity he always brings," Woodley said. "Even though he's our rival, you have to respect him because of the things he's done for a long period of time."
Woodley said even after the Steelers beat the Ravens in the AFC championship game in the 2008 season, Lewis offered him some advice about playing in the Super Bowl.
"That speaks about the guy's character right there," Woodley said. "We just beat them and we're going to the Super Bowl and he's telling me how important it is to go out there and win."
Said quarterback Charlie Batch, who has been in the league just two years fewer than Lewis, "He's one of the most respected players in probably the history of the league. Everyone would love to have him as a teammate."
London: Can the NFL resist?
The NFL will play two regular-season games in London next year for the first time, including the Steelers vs. the Minnesota Vikings.
Might there come a time when one team plays all of its home games in Wembley Stadium?
The London Jaguars anyone?
There's been speculation that the NFL would love one of its teams to move there. They won't find much enthusiasm among the players, however. Forget the travel; living in London for more than half the year, counting offseason training, would turn off most players. Good luck to the future London Jaguars attracting free agents or keeping their own players under contract.
Safety Ryan Clark left the Washington Redskins to sign with the Steelers as a free agent. He would rather quit than join the London Jaguars.
"It's too far away from everything we know, from everything we love. At this point in my career, if it was a London team or none, I would retire, I wouldn't play at all."
Living is expensive enough in New York. With the pound rising against the dollar, it would be much more so in London. Players would have to put their kids in English schools or leave their families home in the United States.
"There are guys who are from the South who get drafted to the West Coast and there's culture shock," Clark said. "There's no baby sitters for your kids and all that. Imagine being in London with the different culture and food.
"You basically would be on your own, with your teammates and that's it."
Masseuses need plane tickets, too
The Steelers will play in London Sept. 29. They have not yet determined when they will arrive. Some teams that have played there flew out Monday and practiced all week in England. Some practiced at home and flew to London on Friday night.
Either way, it will be a road trip like they've never been on. When the Steelers played three preseason games overseas in the 1990s, they spent all week practicing in Dublin and Barcelona and several days doing so in Tokyo.
"I just want to know what the practice schedule is," Woodley said. "Are we going to be there all week? Might as well stay there all week."
He noted the five-hour time difference from London to Pittsburgh and said, "Stay the whole week, get used to it."
Batch has never been there and is looking forward to it. He also thought disruptions might not be as much as they are on a one-day trip to the West Coast. In those games, the Steelers take a 2:30 flight Saturday for a Sunday game, play the game and hop on the plane that night to fly home.
"We don't like going to San Francisco or any West Coast trip for that matter," Batch said. "It's probably a little further, but at least if you go over there, you go over for more than one day ahead of time."
Players are creatures of habit, and they are not accustomed to spending a lot of time on the road, other than preparing for a Super Bowl.
"I would prefer to play Sunday at 1 o'clock in Pittsburgh, PA., every week," Heath Miller said.
"I'm sure it's going to present a whole new set of circumstances that we're not accustomed to, but the thing about it is, the Vikings will be presented with the same set of issues."
What kind of issues? Some that fans may never have thought about, such as how to get that masseuse to London for a week.
"I know myself, I have a schedule," Clark said. "We're on the road for a day and anybody you want on the road with you for that day, whether it's a massage therapist or someone who stretches you, it's easy to get a ticket for that day and a hotel room for a day. But in their situation, to ask them to leave their work for a week?
"It's going to be different."
First Published October 21, 2012 12:00 am