Roethlisberger, Ward Are Ready to Go for Steelers

Arizona Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill visits with Coach Ken Whisenhunt after the Cardinals clinched the NFC West championship early last month.
Arizona Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill visits with Coach Ken Whisenhunt after the Cardinals clinched the NFC West championship early last month. (By Paul Connors -- Associated Press)
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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Pittsburgh Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin said yesterday that QB Ben Roethlisberger is healthy and he expected WR Hines Ward to be productive in tomorrow's Super Bowl.

The two coaches, Tomlin and the Arizona Cardinals' Ken Whisenhunt, participated in their final news conferences of the week yesterday.

Tomlin dismissed speculation that Roethlisberger is being plagued by a rib injury.

"Ben is fine," Tomlin said. "He's going to play."

Ward resumed practicing here Thursday after suffering a sprained knee in the AFC championship game.

"Hines looked good yesterday," Tomlin said. "We'll see where he is today. . . . He's been here [dealing with an injury] before. I've been here with him before. . . . We expect him to be Hines Ward on Sunday."

Tomlin said he's not concerned about the familiarity Whisenhunt and Cardinals offensive line coach Russ Grimm, both former Pittsburgh assistants, have with the Steelers.

"I would imagine every week in the National Football League, there's a significant coach that has a relationship with the people they're playing against," Tomlin said.

Whisenhunt said he thinks his underdog team is ready to play. Few expected the Cardinals to be here after a 9-7 regular season, but they beat Atlanta, Carolina and Philadelphia in the playoffs.

"I feel very good about where we are right now," Whisenhunt said.

· CHANGE OF PLANS: Certainly, it's not the Super Bowl experience Byron Leftwich once envisioned for himself.

When he had Super Bowl dreams, the former first-round draft pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars saw himself carrying a team there and being a focal point of the buildup and the game.

But that was before the Jaguars got rid of him and a brief stay with the Atlanta Falcons last season didn't work out. So now the product of H.D. Woodson High in the District is in Tampa as Roethlisberger's backup with the Steelers, impersonating Cardinals QB Kurt Warner in practices as the teams ready for tomorrow's meeting at Raymond James Stadium.

Yet Leftwich said he's fine with it.

"Sometimes what you've got planned, it's not what the man upstairs has got planned," Leftwich said this week. "You're not really in control of this, and I understand that. It was tough going through those injuries and everything, but everything happens for a reason. It happened to give me this opportunity here right now."

· 49ERS: San Francisco hired Jimmy Raye as its offensive coordinator. Raye is a former offensive coordinator of the Washington Redskins, working for then-coach Marty Schottenheimer in 2001, and most recently was the New York Jets' running backs coach.

· VICK UPDATE: One of Michael Vick's attorneys told a bankruptcy judge in Virginia the former quarterback is expected to be transferred to a halfway house soon.

Vick has been in Leavenworth, Kan., serving a 23-month federal prison sentence for his role in a dogfighting operation based at a home that he owned in Virginia. He is scheduled to be released in July.

-- Mark Maske

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