6:10 p.m.: All right, it's official -- there are a lotta younz in the stadium. The PG's scientific survey says between 60 and 80 percent of the 65,857 place is filled with Steelers fans. Not quite as many as Super Bowl XL in Detroit. But pretty darn close, in this economy, at this distance from tahn.
5:48 p.m.: Here's a sight and sound you can only find at a Super Bowl: Beleaguered punter Mitch Berger, the last Steeler to exit the field and head to their locker room, raised his helmet aloft and the Steelers throng in the South end zone let out a clamor. (For the record, as of now the Steeler contingent appears to be up to 50 percent of the crowd, but plenty of empty seats remain. We'll find out when the teams enter the field for game's start. Some Cardinals fans brought their white towels. . . . Oh, check that, a "Here We Go Steelers" chant, and it looks like maybe 70-percent gold towels. Indeed, the late Myron Cope would be proud.)
5:46 p.m.: Huge crowd roar as the Steelers wind up warm ups and head to the locker room
5:33 p.m.: In a live interview this afternoon at the White House, President Barack Obama predicted "the Steelers are going to eke it out in a close one." Moments later, Mr. Obama told NBC's Matt Lauer, "I'll see if I have to eat my words."
5: 30 p.m.: Both teams on the field stretching
5:10 p.m.: Dispatch from a nation (San Diego) From Left to Right: USMC Lts. Todd Mondelewski, Cameron Nelson and Lindsey Steele. Nelson just returned TODAY from a 10-month deployment in the middle east and is holding a towel that he had tucked in his gear as he flew missions as a flight surgeon in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Mondzelewski was deployed in Iraq for Super Bowl XL, so he is particularly jacked to be watching today's game in the comforts of home, rather than a desert tent.
4:58 p.m.: Inactives: Pittsburgh -- safety Anthony Smith, cornerback Fernando Bryant, linebacker Bruce Davis, tackle Tony Hills, tackle Jason Capizzi, defensive tackle Scott Paxson and defensive end Orpheus Roye with Dennis Dixon the No. 3 quarterback; Arizona -- cornerback Eric Green, fullback Tim Castille, linebacker Victor Hobson, tackle Elliot Vallejo, tackle Brandon Keith, defensive tackle Alan Branch and ex-Steelers tight end Jerame Tuman with fellow ex-Steeler Brian St. Pierre the No. 3 quarterback.
4:46 p.m.: Ticket sales, thanks to excess Steelers Galaxy fans in tahn, are spiking -- almost $1,000 higher per ducat than their late-week bottom of $1,200 or so. One local seller tells the St. Petersburg Times that he expects RayJay to be 90 percent black and gold.
4:11 p.m.: Ward, by the way, is warming up by catching passes. He's got a small, pull-on, cushion brace around his right knee -- not the bulky variety. He looks relatively hale and certainly at ease, posing for a photo and still chatting with Jerome Bettis. Meanwhile, members of Steelers West are catching up with old pals, a sight that will continue: Cardinals assistant head coach Russ Grimm chatting with Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, Cardinals defensive coach Matt Raich and Haggans hugging and greeting others, Steelers injured quarterback Charlie Batch talking to a warming up Cardinals No. 3 quarterback Brian St. Pierre. . . .
3:58 p.m.: Check this aht. . . . It's a balloon scene from a grocery-chain store in -- wait for it -- Bawlmer.
Ray Lewis' turf.
Thanks to Michael Assad, son of part-time sports correspondent David Assad, for sending along this freeze frame, of which he wrote: "I bet my Polumalu shirt you'd never see any opposing team's colors in any Giant Eagle in Pittsburgh."
3:54 p.m.: Hines Ward just greeted The Bus and ex-Steelers teammate Clark Haggans of Arizona at midfield, and Towels waved, throats roared. And there's maybe 3,000 people in the stands?!
3:22 p.m.: A day at the beach? Yep, Steelers fans were walking around Clearwater Beach this morning, all kinds of Hines Wardses, Ben Roethlisbergers and, of course, Troy Polamalus. There were even some James Harrisons along Kennedy Boulevard between Tampa and the beach, including a gaggle of fans around 9:30 a.m. . . going to church? Now that's devout fandom. One last note: The highway department isn't on top of its game -- one flashing sign over Kennedy/Florida Route 60 heralded, "Stadium Parking Next Lfet." Rghghghghit.
3:03 p.m.: Oh, man, wish I had a camera. The Steelers offensive line just took a shoulder-to-shoulder team picure atop the Super Bowl XLIII logo on the end of the field near their golden end-zone (field photo hopefully coming soon). Man, Willie Colon is stylin' in a mountain-brown fedora and matching suit -- without sleeves. Gerry Dulac termed it the "Clint Eastwood look." Now if he and his linemates can pull a "Gran Torino" on the Cardinals' defensive line and tell them to get off his lawn. . . .
2:44 p.m.: The scene around Raymond James Stadium: Welcome to Heinz Field South.
Put it this way, Ford Field was filled with Steelers Nation (now Galaxy) to close to 90-percent of its 65,000 capacity, meaning that the Detroit building held somewhere between 49,000 and 58,000 Towel-wavers. RayJay holds 857 more, but the early guess here is it will wind up 60-percent filled with black and gold. That's up to 40,000 Steelers fans.
We'll soon find out, but it's a noticeable, marked advantage for what is officially considered the visiting team for this game. Considering the economy, considering the nearly extra 750-mile trek to Tampa (and you betcha alotta folks drove it), considering the corporate greed clutching almost half the seats ever Super Bowl, that's still impressive. There you go.
2:35 p.m.: Game day.