Hampton's performance praised by Mitchell
January 28, 2011
Herald Standard

PITTSBURGH - Long-time Steelers defensive line coach John Mitchell called nose tackle Casey Hampton's performance in the AFC Championship Game "one of the best games Casey's played in a long, long time. He dominated."

Hampton came close to two sacks, blew up several running plays in the backfield, and was an integral part of the goal-line stand in the fourth quarter of the Steelers' win over the Jets.

Of course, Hampton wasn't as impressed with himself as his coach.

"I was a pretty good game," he said. "You know, we won."

When pressed, Hampton explained that the Jets "single-blocked me. I don't get a lot of single-blocking. I guess they thought they could block me with one guy. One on one, that's going to happen every now and then, but they kept doing it."

That one man was Pro Bowl center Nick Mangold. At one point in the game, Mangold hooked Hampton's arm and bent it back as Hampton attempted to run past him to make a tackle. Hampton then smacked right guard Brandon Moore, No. 65, after the play.

"Sixty-five hit me late," Hampton said. "I told him I was going to take it out on Mangold."

Did he?

"Nah, Mangold's a cool cat. He's laid back."

What does Hampton see from the Green Bay interior on tape?

"They're small guys but they do a good job," he said. "They'll single-block me a little bit, but their quarterback is so hard to get that it really won't matter. If you beat them up the middle, he'll see you and get out of the way.

"As for their running game, I don't think they're going to try to run the ball. That's not their bread and butter. Everybody knows that. They might run it to keep us honest, but everybody knows what they want to do."

[HIGH-LIGHT]UNDERDOGS? REALLY?:[/HIGH-LIGHT] The Steelers have won two of the last five Super Bowls, beat the Green Bay Packers the last time they played them, are the No. 2 seed out of the rugged AFC, and yet are 2 1/2-point underdogs to the sixth-seeded Packers.

How can that be?

"Because we're not flashy," said Hines Ward. "Look at Ben (Roethlisberger)'s stats. Nobody even talks about Ben being one of the elite quarterbacks in our league. I mean, I thought you guys, when you judged quarterbacks, were supposed to be worried more about wins and losses and Super Bowls. Well, he's 10-2 in the playoffs. I don't know why he's not considered up there with some of the great guys.

"But we're not a flashy bunch. We can be. We have showed flashes that we can go out there and do it, but we just find ways to win games. And our defense is the reason we're in the Super Bowl. They played phenomenal all year.

"I don't know. Whoever the oddsmakers are, they do it as a business. But to be favorites, underdogs - we've been on both sides and we'll just still go out and play. A lot of us have been there before so we won't get caught up into all the things that come with Super Bowls. We like playing the underdog role."

[HIGH-LIGHT]INJURY REPORT:[/HIGH-LIGHT] The same group that missed Wednesday's practice also missed Thursday's practice: C Maurkice Pouncey (ankle), DB Will Allen (knee), CB Bryant McFadden (abdomen), S Troy Polamalu, WR Emmanuel Sanders (foot) and T Jonathan Scott. DE Aaron Smith again practiced in a limited capacity, even though he's not expected to play in the Super Bowl.

Most of the injured players are simply resting minor injuries, with the exception being Pouncey. His teammate, Chris Kemoeatu, told a newspaper Wednesday that Pouncey won't play, but other teammates Thursday said that Kemoeatu was only making an assumption because the odds are stacked against Pouncey recovering in time, and that no one, coaches included, knows whether Pouncey can make an unlikely recovery.

Pouncey's left foot is in a hard cast and a definite determination won't be made until late next week.

[HIGH-LIGHT]LEBEAU: STAY OR GO?:[/HIGH-LIGHT] With the Arizona Cardinals still in need of a defensive coordinator, and several former Pittsburgh coaches already working in Phoenix, national reporters are guessing that Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau will consider jumping to the Cardinals when his contract expires after the Super Bowl. Even though LeBeau has denied this, the rumors persist.

But the rumors are wrong. The Cardinals are instead waiting on Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler, the so-called "coordinator in waiting" with the Steelers. If LeBeau re-signs with the Steelers, as expected, the Steelers are then expected to release Butler from his contract.

[HIGH-LIGHT]QUOTABLE:[/HIGH-LIGHT] Aaron Smith on his favorite Mike Tomlin-ism:

"My favorite is 'Fight for every blade of grass.' That one's special to me. That one reminds me of when (five-year-old son) Elijah was diagnosed (with leukemia) that week and we had the goal line stand. That whole week that line was going through my head, 'Just give me a blade of grass to defend.' So that's the one that's stuck with me the most."