Jax lax

Jan 25, 2005 12:01 PM

Rocky Bleier has always been comfortable coming to Las Vegas and is not troubled saying Super Bowl in the city limits.

Somebody, please revive Mr. Tagliabue!

"Everybody comes here, parties are going on with great seats and women all around. This is an ideal place to have a Super Bowl," said Bleier, whose latest visit to Sin City was an autograph / book signing and photo op session last week at the Stardust Race and Sports Book.

"Everything is compressed in Las Vegas," Bleier said. "Here, the crowds can be easily accommodated. In Jacksonville, there are no rooms. Jacksonville sold the NFL on its beaches, but the activities (at Jacksonville Landing) are downtown an hour away. People are now finding rooms 2½ hours away in Orlando. I know a group that is having its meeting in Miami and flying up to the game."

Nothing can damage the NFL’s absurd stance against Las Vegas and gambling more than seeing a ringing endorsement from Bleier, a Pittsburgh icon and role model second to none.

"The NFL is about image and marketing," he said. "It just so happens another great marketing place is Las Vegas. Part of the gambling issue is in image and perception. Gambling lines were there 30 years ago and we would use them as a motivational tool if we were underdogs against the spread."

Bleier said that during his time with the Steelers the thought about covering spreads was never considered.

"At least, from my point of view," he said. "The spread never came up in discussion, although we all followed it and knew everyone else did. Ballplayers are competitive. They want to win by 50 or 1. Our job was simply to win football games."

Bleier tries to distance comparisons with the late Pat Tillman, each sacrificing from an NFL career to serve our country on the battlefield.

"It was different in my case because I was drafted and Pat wasn’t," he said. "I was one of the handful of players who fell through the cracks. I thought I would be taken care of through my association with the Steelers, that I would get into a reserve unit or the national guard. Hey, that’s where the chips fall.

"Pat turned down a $1 million contract with the Cardinals to serve in the Iraqi conflict," Bleier said. "Given the choice, I don’t know how many would have done that. Probably none."

Bleier had no opinion on the Super Bowl, but not
because of any anti-gaming belief. He simply couldn’t come to a choice.

"If Pittsburgh and Philadelphia play each other, the media will try and build up the Pennsylvania rivalry," he said. "Honestly, there really isn’t much of one. Pittsburgh’s big rival is Cleveland. Philly’s is the New York Giants."

Bleier did believe that seeing the Steelers as a three-point underdog would motivate them against New England.

"I know if the Steelers of Chuck Noll were a three-point underdog on our home field with the league’s best record, it would sure motivate us," he said.

As a former Notre Dame player, Bleier has kept up with the sagging image of the Fighting Irish.

"We will have to wait and see how well (new coach) Charlie Weis does," he said. "The two previous coaches were quiet, introspective guys. What you need in a change is a confident guy. I think Weis understands what needs to be done.

"He put a staff together with some 143 years of experience, a number of national championships and contacts in Florida and Texas. Turnaround won’t happen overnight, but Charlie is committed to it."

Bleier, who travels the country as a motivational speaker, said he would not coach his alma mater if asked.

"It would be a great ego boost, but I have no coaching experience," he said. "I’d rather do what I’m doing and come to Las Vegas whenever I can. I will pass the word to the commissioner to go easy on gambling when I see him."

BLEIER VITALS

Born: Appleton, Wis.

College: Notre Dame (’68)

Career: chosen by Pittsburgh in 16th round.

”¡ drafted for Vietnam War (’69)

”¡ awarded Purple Heart and Bronze Star

”¡ made Steelers roster in (’72)

”¡ joined Franco Harris as 1,000-yd rushers (’76)

”¡ scored go-ahead TD in Super Bowl XIII

”¡ board member for Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund

”¡ active in Special Olympics and Multiple Sclerosis Society

”¡ tours country as motivational speaker