Bush Makes Steelers Feel at Home

When President Bush recognized the Pittsburgh Steelers -- the Super Bowl champions -- in the opulence of the White House's East Room today, it seemed a lot like the Steelers' home field.

The conservatively dressed invited guests raised bright yellow Terrible Towels above their heads and broke into a few spontaneous rounds of "Here we go, Steelers, here we go!"

"It sounds like some people have been drinking some Iron City beer here," the president said at the opening of his congratulatory remarks, drawing laughter and applause from Pittsburgh fans in the audience and press corps alike.

Joining Bush to recognize the Steelers was a power team of Pennsylvania politicians: senators Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum, Rep. Tim Murphy and former Gov. Dick Thornburgh.

Bush said he saw a parallel between the Steelers' 11-5 season and his current situation: "About halfway through the season, a lot of people were counting the Steelers out. They said you didn't have a chance.

"I kind of know the feeling," the president wisecracked.

Bush congratulated everyone from coach Bill Cowher to the trainers to the players themselves but credited the success of the Steelers' franchise to the Rooney family.

"I know the ability of an owner to affect the culture of the team," he said. "And a class franchise starts with class ownership. And the Rooneys -- Mr. Dan Rooney and Mr. Art Rooney -- are classy people."

Keeping with the lighthearted mood of the event, the president, after offering congratulations, took a jab at Cowher, who is known for displaying his emotions quite plainly in his facial expressions during games.

"He's got the most unusual expressions on the sidelines," Bush said. "So I told the vice president I was going to be able to congratulate coach Cowher in person and he said, 'Well, get him to give me some tips on his scowl.' "

Perhaps the most anticipated moment of Bush's 10-minute speech came when he jovially singled out linebacker Joey Porter for tongue-in-cheek remarks Porter made a few weeks ago about talking to the president on his White House visit about "the way things were running."

"You've got a man known for his swagger," Bush joked, turning from the podium to direct his comments to the sunglass-wearing Porter in the back row. "I've been looking for Joey Porter's new dance."

The team presented Bush with a No. 43 Steelers jersey and a football signed by the entire team.

After the event, Cowher said he wasn't offended by the president's joke about his facial expressions.

"The president can say whatever he wants about anybody," Cowher said. "I was honored."

At the end of the 2004 season, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had guaranteed retiring running back Jerome Bettis a Super Bowl victory if he would stay through the 2005 season. He wasn't about to repeat the promise today, though.

"That would be nice. No promises though," Roethlisberger admitted, "Jerome? I'm done with promises."

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