Monday, November 13, 2006

Details Emerging About That Pregame Meeting

Some details are beginning to trickle out about the emotion-packed, pregame meeting; and in this article that appeared in both the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and The New Orleans Times-Picayune several of the Steelers' players speak out about just what was said.

"Bill Cowher had admittedly run out of things to say, so he let his players do the talking for a change.

What resulted was as rare an occurrence as the 2-6 hole the Steelers confronted Sunday morning was foreboding. And what transpired was a 38-31 triumph over the New Orleans Saints that was as emotional as it was reassuring to a Steelers team that has yet to give up on itself.

Perhaps even Cowher was beginning to wonder in the wake of a first half of the season that had degenerated from disappointing to potentially embarrassing for a defending Super Bowl champion.

Perhaps he was still applying a form of damage control to running back Willie Parker publicly questioning the Steelers' desire and trust the previous week.

Perhaps Cowher just wanted the players to reaffirm how they felt about one another.

Guard Alan Faneca recalled something similar happening before the AFC championship game in January, when Jerome Bettis and Kimo von Oelhoffen took the floor in Denver.

Before that?

'In that meeting? Maybe not ever,' said Faneca, a nine-year veteran out of LSU. 'Maybe (it's happened) before, but it's been few and far between on that day.'

The final pregame meeting is normally Cowher's domain.

It's held the night before a noon kickoff and on the day of the game when the Steelers play at 3:05 p.m., 3:15 or at night.

'It's him all the way, kind of a "This is what I think it's going to take" from him and his point of view,' Faneca said.

This time, Faneca did some of the talking.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wide receiver Hines Ward also spoke on behalf of the offense.

Linebacker Joey Porter, cornerback Deshea Townsend and defensive end Aaron Smith represented the defense as orators.

Wide receiver Sean Morey voiced what the special teams players were feeling.

'Coach told us earlier (last week) that he wanted a couple of us to get up and speak,' Roethlisberger said. 'I don't know what he was expecting us to do, but the guys got up.

'We didn't talk about X's & O's.'

Parker said Porter 'kind of pointed all the players out.'

'He said stuff we normally wouldn't say,' Parker said. 'He was probably talking to me.'

Parker also said Smith was moved to tears.

'I love this team,' Smith said.

The recurring themes, Faneca said, were trust and a belief in one another.

That they came from the heart rather than the head man meant everything.

'You get a guy up there that opens his heart up in front of your teammates and your peers, it's gonna get emotional, it's gonna get to you a little bit,' Faneca said. 'A message delivered by a guy you're out there fighting with is a little bit different than coming from the head coach. It's from a guy that's down there in the trenches with you.'

Together, those guys in the trenches survived a 517-yard New Orleans onslaught, a blown 14-0 lead and enough injuries in the secondary to force Anthony Madison into the game for extended stretches on something other than special teams.

Through it all, one fan among the 61,911 clung to a placard that read 'We Steel Believe.'

At 3-6, the Steelers do, too

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