Big Ben, Harrison among five Steelers in Pro Bowl

PITTSBURGH -- In his first season, Ben Roethlisberger's 13-0 record was easily the best of any rookie quarterback in NFL history. In his second season, Roethlisberger won the Super Bowl.

Finally, in his fourth season, Roethlisberger has made the Pro Bowl.

Roethlisberger, enjoying a turnaround season following the many mishaps and major injuries of the previous year, was among five Steelers chosen Tuesday for the 2008 Pro Bowl.

Outside linebacker James Harrison, the replacement for the departed Joey Porter, also was a first-time pick, and the former nondrafted free agent had the joyous look of a kid opening a Christmas present when he learned the news.

"This is the most you've ever seen me smile in a long time," said Harrison, normally one of the Steelers' least talkative players. "Pro Bowl! I'm a Pro Bowler now! I can say that. If somebody says something to me, I can say, 'I'm a Pro Bowler!' "

The other Steelers going to Honolulu in February are familiar names: left guard Alan Faneca for the seventh and perhaps last time with Pittsburgh; safety Troy Polamalu for the fourth consecutive season; and running back Willie Parker, the NFL rushing leader, for the second time.

Harrison and Faneca were chosen as AFC starters; Roethlisberger was thrilled enough merely to be picked.

"A lot of people wrote me off as a one-, two-year kind of hit wonder, so it's good to kind of bounce back," Roethlisberger said. "It's always, from the time you are a kid, it's always your goal to win a Super Bowl and get to a Pro Bowl and all that stuff. I'm not going to lie, it's a great honor."

A year ago, Roethlisberger's career, and life, were badly disrupted by a serious motorcycle accident, an appendectomy and multiple concussions. Teammates and former coach Bill Cowher were unhappy that a player so valuable carelessly put himself in a position to be badly hurt by not wearing a helmet in his June 2006 crash.

Not surprisingly, Roethlisberger went on to have his worst season with 18 touchdown passes and 23 interceptions as the Steelers finished 8-8 a year after winning the Super Bowl.

The 25-year-old Roethlisberger has rebounded in a big way this season, throwing a team-record 29 touchdown passes and trimming his interceptions to 11. His 100.5 passer rating is the league's fourth-best.

Roethlisberger put together the comeback year despite uneven protection -- his 43 sacks are second-most in the league -- and multiple-game injuries to wide receivers Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward.

Despite the sacks, Roethlisberger still plans to take all the offensive linemen and their wives or girlfriends to Hawaii. He joins Tom Brady of New England and Peyton Manning of Indianapolis as the AFC quarterbacks.

"It's an honor to be able to be in the same sentence, same breath, same team with those guys," he said. "It's an honor. It's an all-star game. You can say, 'He's an all-star,' I guess."

The Patriots and Chargers each had eight players chosen for the AFC team. The Colts and Steelers had five players each.

Of the Steelers, Harrison was by far the most excited.

Like Parker, he wasn't drafted out of college, and he was cut multiple times before finally winning a job with Pittsburgh in 2004. He didn't become a starter until Porter, long the most familiar face on the Steelers' defense, was released in March.

"Sometimes you've got to take the road less traveled," said Harrison, who played at Kent State, the alma mater of former SteelersPro Bowl linebacker Jack Lambert. "Some people got to learn the hard way how to get things."

Harrison has a team-high 8.5 sacks, six forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and an interception, yet still plays on special teams. He will start at outside linebacker along with New England's Mike Vrabel, who played for Pittsburgh from 1997-2000.

Probably the most surprising Steelers pick was Polamalu, who missed four games with injuries and has had a down year statistically.

"Quite honestly, I wasn't thinking too much about it (the Pro Bowl)," Polamalu said. "Maybe because I didn't think I had a chance."

Parker not only made the Pro Bowl for the second consecutive year, he could become the Steelers' first NFL rushing champion since Bill Dudley in 1946. Parker has 1,317 yards with two games to play, six yards more than San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson.

"It would mean a lot to me. I'm not going to lie and say it doesn't," Parker said.

The 31-year-old Faneca, a five-time All-Pro guard, is in the final season of his contract and is expected to play elsewhere next season.

"People ask if it gets old," Faneca said. "It's a huge honor."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.