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Up Close with Craig Wolfley

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Craig Wolfley is a 12-year veteran of the NFL who played 10 years with the Pittsburgh Steelers and two years with the Minnesota Vikings. PSR editor Tony DeFazio chatted with Wolf before the Super Bowl.

The former offensive lineman was voted online by Pittsburgh fans in 2000 as one of the best players to ever wear a Steeler uniform, an honor he called “obviously the first Y2K computer glitch of the new millennium.” Wolfley was also chosen to be part of the Syracuse University 20th Century All-Star Team. A sideline reporter with the Steelers broadcast team, Wolfley co-hosts a radio show with Tunch Ilkin on ESPN 970 in Pittsburgh.

Tony: Is there a moment that stands out to you from this season for the Steeelers?
Wow. There are so many, but if you look at the Rashard Mendenhall run in overtime, the 49-yarder in the opener to beat the Falcons, that kind of sprung the whole thing, and provided the push for the 3-1 start to the Ben-less quarter of the season.

Troy going stealth-mode on Flacco and getting the strip-sack (in the Steelers 13-10 win in Baltimore in Week 13).

Ben finding a little-known wide receiver from Central Michigan on the most crucial third-down of the season (in Pittsburgh's playoff win over the Ravens)... that's quite a tale, just that alone.

Tony: Wolf, do Ben's teammates view him in a different light now?
I think there's no question. This is a young man who has shown a maturity that had been lacking in recent years. A young man who has stepped up to the plate and done what has been required of him. A young man who... I don't know if redemption is the word, but certainly he has truly shown repentance and stepped forward to do what he must. And the best thing he can do is lead this team right now.

Tony: Was there a moment for Ben Roethlisberger where it all came together in the eyes of his teammates?
I think the real moment of truth came the moment he walked through the doors and greeted the men, and those men greeted him. That's something I wasn't privy to, something no one outside the club was privy to, but I would think that would be the moment.

Tony: If he ends up winning a third ring, will he finally be thought of in the same way that Peyton Manning and Ton Brady are – as one of the great quarterbacks in the game?
Nationally, I think he'll always be thought of as below that level because he's never going to put up the gaudy numbers of a Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. In Pittsburgh that order will be reversed.

The thing that separates Ben from those other guys – Ben is a football player. He's more than just a quarterback, he's a football player. And the thing that he does best is win. I think that alone separates him. And if you need someone in one specific moment, to pull out some magic, he's the guy.

Tony: Looking ahead to the game, if there is one thing about the Packers that should give Steelers fans reason to be concerned, what I it?
What you see in the Packers defense is a reflection of what you see in the Steelers defense. There are so many similarities there. Dom Capers in Green Bay and Dick Lebeau here. You've got Darren Perry and Kevin Greene on that staff up there. That defense is a defense that the Steelers should be well-acquainted with because they're looking at a reflection of themselves.

Tony: After that Packers' defense knocked Bears quarterback Jay Cutler out of the NFC Championship Game, a lot of Cutler's peers were openly critical of him leaving the game. Did that surprise you?
Yeah. There's two thoughts I took away from that. No. 1 is I gotta believe that Jay's reputation nationwide preceded him, and 2, I think players just have too much access to social media.

Tony: When you say his reputation preceded him, do you think that he simply doesn't get the benefit of the doubt because of the way he's acted in the past?
Wolf: I think that did play some part in it, yeah. It's just so unfair for anybody to say that they could have done this or they would have done that. You don't know. I guess I can understand those questions from fans, but not from the players. That was the surprising part to me.

Tony: You had a long NFL career of a dozen years, you played for two historical franchises and you played with a lot of great players. But around this time of year, do you ever think to yourself,  “what if” or wonder about what it must feel like to play in a Super Bowl?
Oh no question about it. I remember my first Super Bowl... at Super Bowl 40 in Detroit I was standing next to Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel as they counted the seconds down, and suddenly they were Super Bowl winners, and I thought, “So this is what it's like... but this will be as close as I ever get to it.”

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