FORT WORTH, Texas (AP)― Howdy, Hines. Welcome to Big D.
Hines Ward was ready for a rodeo of a week leading up to the Super Bowl as he stepped off the Pittsburgh Steelers’ charter flight when the team arrived in Dallas.
Pittsburgh’s star wide receiver, who embraces his reputation as one of the league’s most aggressive ― and some say, dirtiest ― players, was decked out in a big black cowboy hat, a black sequined Western-style shirt, blue jeans, boots and a Texas-sized silver belt buckle.
“I’m in Dallas, Texas,” Ward said, smiling. “I wanted to put on my whole cowboy outfit and enjoy it. No nerves.”
Steelers receiver Hines Ward walks to the team bus after arriving at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport on Monday. (AP-Yonhap News)
He sure looked loose, and almost like a native Texan. Not bad for a guy born in South Korea who grew up in Georgia and has played in Pittsburgh for 13 years.
“Where’d I find all this stuff?” an amused Ward asked, repeating a reporter’s question. “A little place in Monroeville (Pennsylvania). It’s my little diamond in the rough there.”
Ward and the rest of these Steelers are no strangers to the NFL’s biggest stage, making their third Super Bowl trip in six years.
“We’re enjoying this,” Ward said. “We know right now that there are a lot of guys who would love to have this opportunity. Being here, there’s a comfort level. We kind of know what to expect.”
And, in Pittsburgh, titles are expected. The Steelers are looking to win the franchise’s seventh league championship Sunday, when they take on Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
“We’re going to embrace it all,” said Mike Tomlin, looking for his second ring as the Steelers’ coach.
That includes all the hoopla that goes along with being one of the teams playing in the Super Bowl. “You step off the plane and you’ve got helicopters, you’ve got police, media and then this,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. “If you’re not used to it, it could be overwhelming.”
Roethlisberger is plenty used to this wild environment, and he has tried to take a low-key approach since winning his first ring back in his second season, when the Steelers beat the Seattle Seahawks 21-10 in 2006. It was the same three years later, when he engineered a late comeback win as Pittsburgh rallied to beat Arizona 27-23.
And, this all comes after an offseason in which he was accused of sexual assault of a 20-year-old college student, but a prosecutor in Georgia declined to bring charges.