The Post-Gazette seems to be casting around for advance hype stories prior to media day tomorrow, detailing the obscure quasi-redemption story of Fernando Bryant, who got close to going to a Super Bowl that one time and now has a chance to play in the big game after 10 years and yadda, yadda, yadda, he only plays in dime coverage.
Because we're only three years removed from the last Steelers championship, it's hard to dig up a lot of stories of underdogs who would make nice stories if they got their first title. But there remain a few on the Steelers squad nonetheless.
Mike Tomlin -- Okay, okay, he has a ring from his days as secondary coach in Tampa, but even Tomlin acknowledges that he doesn't think much of it (not sure I totally believe that, but sure). But because of the match-up with Whisenhunt, the Super Bowl becomes a referendum on the Steelers choice to go with Tomlin. The guy's had his detractors among Steelers fans, angry that he hasn't deposed Bruce Arians among other complaints, though many of them appear to have quieted in recent weeks.
LaMarr Woodley -- Easily the best draft pick Tomlin has made in his two years here. Woodley seemed a very odd choice considering the Steelers had already taken Lawrence Timmons in the first round of the '07 draft, but Woodley has turned out to be a huge steal and one of the biggest differencemakers on the defense.
Ryan Clark -- It sucks that all the attention Clark gets is for his monster hits on Wes Welker and Willis McGahee, because he's been a huge factor in the secondary's rise to the league's top unit. Given the difference in the defense last year after he went out for the year to have his spleen removed, you would think he would be getting more credit this season. Outside of hardcore Steelers fans, it's sparse. For those readers of this blog who don't live in the D.C., it's hard to overstate how popular Clark remains with the fans of his old team. There was a Redskins fan who came into the bar because his Steeler fan girlfriend dragged him there, so he got a Ryan Clark Steeler jersey to wear under duress.
Santonio Holmes -- He's only now living up to the promise he had at the beginning of the year of becoming one of the NFL's primere wideouts. In his three years, he's shown just as many flashes of brilliance and inanity. It looks as though he starting to favor an inclination toward to former. Let's hope it stays that way.
Mewelde Moore -- With injuries to both of the highly touted backs they were staking their fortunes on at the beginning of the year, the team would be up shit creek if it weren't for Moore's performance during the middle part of the season. The best free agent signing the Steelers had this off-season, with the possible exception of...
Justin Hartwig -- He's not Sean Mahan, for one. Hartwig has played well, if not spectacularly, all season. With how bad the line has been at times, that's as high a praise I can confer.
Byron Leftwich -- Possibly the most popular Steeler reserve in some time, his biggest contribution, besides the second half of the Redskins Monday night game, was giving fans an alternative to pine for. I, like many fans, called for him to start for a while after the loss to the Colts in which. Nevertheless, the guy's been a pretty good QB in the league for a while, got semi-screwed in Jacksonville and it'd be nice to see him get a ring.
Conversely, here are a host of players/coaches not quite deserving of a title, but they'll have to lump it and get one anyway:
Bruce Arians -- The bete noire of all Steelers fans, I'm think we're all a little sickened that there's really no way he can be fired now. At least he already has a ring from '05 when he was the receivers coach,
Mitch Berger --It's a two-time marriage of necessity between the Steelers and Berger, because of the very, very unfortunate preseason injury to the robo-punter. And it's still not pretty. Berger was actually having a good game until he shanked the hell out of a punt late in the game. Unfortunately, those are the kind of things that can cost your team the season.
Willie Colon -- If he gets a Super Bowl ring, they should engrave "drive-killing holding penalty" or "drive-killing illegal formation penalty" on it. Both, if you can fit them.
Rashard Mendenhall -- Tempting as it is to put Limas Sweed here, at least Limas appears to be putting in some semblance of effort to get better. Reports say Rashard has been MIA from team headquarters or the sidelines since going on IR in Week 4. Your career isn't over rookie, you could possibly learn something from being around a team in a title chase.