Archive for January, 2011

Hines Evolving
January 6, 2011

He is so accessible, so cooperative–familiar to football fans around the globe. He has been here so long, and is so inextricably bound up with the Steelers, that we forget how good he really is, not just in Steeler history, but NFL history.

Never mind that he is one of the best blocking wide receivers to ever play the game. This part of my interview done Wednesday, January 5, speaks to that, and how he is teaching it to the younger receivers on the team.

http://www.wtae.com/video/26380105/detail.html

But, at 34, his football intelligence is only greater. And his ability to get his quarterback first downs is so valuable…Four of them in the game against Cleveland.  He really seems okay that he did not lead the team in receptions for the first time since he tied with Troy Edwards (remember him?) back in 1999. Hines calls Mike Wallace, who did top the list this year, a Pro Bowl receiver. That is coming from a man who went to four, and was also named Super Bowl MVP in 2006.

But there are some records he is closing in on that are important to him. He is just over 300 yards from that magic number of 12 thousand yards. And he is 40-something catches away from 1000 receptions. But within closer reach is Ring Number 3.  And that is the most important, obviously. He and Ben Roethlisberger have worked their magic for well over 500 catches since 2004. And their relationship, which Hines terms as “brothers,” is stronger than ever.

He was already named by NFL.com as one of the top ten Steelers. I can not imagine, that when Hines finally does retire, he will have no problem getting into the Hall of Fame. He has changed the game, and played it with that smile that has delighted Steeler Nation, and beyond.

Plus, he is always ready to flash that smile for a photo–this one for our photojournalist, T.J. Haught.

Unforgettable Winter Classic
January 3, 2011

Unforgettable. The best description I heard from a friend who sat in the rain, and cheered for Sidney, the Pens, and Pittsburgh. It was a night for all those to shine, albeit through a water-spotted lens. What surprised me was how many Caps fans traveled several hours to be part of “unforgettable.”  The estimate-30 thousand, just under half of a crowd over 68 thousand.

While it was a thrill to stand at center ice during the Media Skate on Thursday, and great to be in the press box during the game, I wished I had been sitting outside, so I could hear the cheers, feel the crowd, and see Terrible Towels waving–stamped with that Winter Classic logo.

Hockey is a great game. Was this a great game? Not for the Pens, certainly, and it was let-down for Pens fans, who don’t just root for the Pens, but almost adore them.  Mario, the organization, its coach, Dan Bylsma, team architect, GM Ray Shero, its stars–Crosby,  Malkin, and Fleury–and faces like Talbot, Orpik and Staal. But to hear all the players, including Ovechkin and Fehr ,

talk about the thrill of coming through the tunnel and onto the ice–the experience of playing in a venue crammed full with tens of thousands– mitigated the disappointment a bit.

I didn’t see the Alumni game, but John Meyer’s description of the crowds thunderous welcome to Mario, who had helped make all this happen, gave me chills. Watching him walk onto center ice, accompanied by Hall of Famer Franco Harris, and future Hall of Famer, Jerome Bettis, was a visual example of how lucky fans were to have a marriage of such storied franchises. A huge thanks to the Rooneys’, who made sure their last two season games were on the road. To Pens CEO, David Morehouse, for his vision. USAToday called him the best marketing team president in sports.

But most of all, thanks to the fans. They make this city the sports model all others envy. It may seem trite, but it is the reason I moved here. And we know have a month of Steeler playoffs to celebrate in Heinz Field. Are we lucky ,or what?