Television and stage actress Tamara Tunie was the captain of her high school basketball and volleyball teams, although her current team activities are limited to the Broadway softball circuit -- she played for the "Julius Caesar" squad this summer. Away from the softball diamond, Tunie -- who portrays medical examiner Melinda Warner on "Law and Order: SVU," which premieres tomorrow night on NBC -- gets her sports kicks from the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Why the Steelers?

Once a Steelers fan always a Steelers fan, what can I tell you? I grew up in Pittsburgh. I was a kid when the Steelers were really kind of dominating the NFL, so I grew up with Franco Harris and Terry Bradshaw, the amazing teams in the '70s.

Did you ever go to games?

Actually one of my older sisters married Greg Hawthorne, who was a running back for the Steelers back in the late '70s, so we went to a lot of games.

Wow. Did you get good seats out of the deal?

We got great seats, we were always at the 50-yard line. We would be up in the section with the Steelers' wives, and all the Steelers' wives would have on their fur coats and diamonds.

Did your sister wear fur coats and diamonds?

No, she was actually a little more understated than that.

Any feelings about Ben Roethlisberger?

I think Ben Roethlisberger is the best thing that's happened to the Steelers since Terry Bradshaw, I really do. He's so amazingly talented. What he did last season, being the [second]-string quarterback, and because of injury getting into that starting position, and having the season that he had as a rookie? It was just amazing. I think he's really just a smart quarterback, a thinking quarterback and under an extraordinary amount of pressure he really keeps his head and stays cool.

Did you watch the AFC championship game?

Okay, then there's that, and this is my excuse for that: This was his first season, and prior to that he only played the college season. And his college season always ended in December. So that extra month, going into January, February, he just got tired, that's how I explain it. This season he'll be ready to go the full distance and we'll be able to get that fifth Super Bowl ring.

Bill Cowher has a pretty good face. What theater roles would he be suited for?

Oh God, he'd be a great King Lear. For folks who don't know the play, he has to decide how he'll divide up his kingdom among these three daughters. I'd say the Bus [Jerome Bettis] would be the older sister, Roethlisberger would be the middle sister and this new guy Willie Parker would be the younger sister. And let's not forget that King Lear goes mad. There are occasions where Bill Cowher looks like he's quite mad.

Do you have a Terrible Towel?

Of course I do. It's in the TV room. It's gold, and in black letters it says "Terrible Towel." I also have a gold Steelers ski cap, and I don my attire and get ready for the games whenever I can get the Steelers on TV here in New York.

Ever bring the Terrible Towel backstage to get ready for a play?

You know, I have not, but every time my husband sees me break out the Terrible Towel -- and if my mom is in town and we're watching the game -- he just walks out of the room. He can't take it.

-- Dan Steinberg