Santa brings Ben new toy

Joey Galloway (Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

Joey Galloway grew up a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, so he hopes his long NFL journey will have a fitting end.

PITTSBURGH – The reporters surrounding the old guy with the gray beard in the corner of the locker room weren't interviewing a new assistant coach, or even Santa Claus for that matter, but the team's newest wide receiver.

Yeah, the guy with the gray beard.

"I've believed for a long time," he was telling them, "that I was one of the faster guys in the league. So I can say, with confidence, that I could beat Ben in a race if we got after it."

Well, they said Joey Galloway was fast. Beating Ben Roethlisberger, of course, isn't as great a feat as say tackling Ben Roethlisberger.

But, seriously, how fast is Galloway, the newest and oldest player on the team?

"Very fast, supposedly," said Roethlisberger. "He still could probably run faster than anyone here."

Galloway, 38, has been out of the league since the New England Patriots cut him Oct. 20. Prior to that, he'd been employed in the league since 1995 when the Seattle Seahawks made him the 8th pick of the draft out of Ohio State.

In 15 NFL seasons, Galloway has 689 receptions for 10,777 yards (15.6 avg.) and 77 touchdowns. He's also scored five touchdowns on punt returns.

"He can run," Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin said when Galloway signed with the team on Tuesday.

That's the reason the Steelers wanted to sign Galloway last March, but the Patriots made a better offer and he went off to New England. But Galloway only caught seven passes in three games and was released. He went back home to Columbus, Ohio and continued working out.

"I'm always in pretty good shape," said the 5-11, 197-pounder. "But working out and playing football is different. Am I in shape? Yes. Am I ready to play football? We're going to find out."

Galloway was signed to replace Limas Sweed, whose football season ended due to a "non-football illness" that the Steelers will not explain. Sweed had been a sometimes No. 4 receiver, and Galloway will try to take that role away from rookie Tyler Grisham, who was called up from the practice squad two weeks ago.

Roethlisberger said he'd volunteer his services to help get Galloway get up to speed, but "I'm sure he won't anyway," Roethlisberger said. "He's been around this thing long enough."

Here's how Galloway explained the crash course:

"I got here yesterday. I signed yesterday. Give me my book and let's sit down and see how much you can get into your brain and how quickly it can stick. You go from looking at it on paper, from talking it over with your coaches, and probably the biggest step is to stand in the huddle with the quarterback, who is used to talking to 10 other guys that know the plays pretty well. So I've got to get my ears prepared and be ready to grab these things off the air as he says them and hopefully not make too many mistakes."

Galloway grew up a Steelers fan in Bellair, Ohio, a town just south of Wheeling, W. Va., about 60 miles southwest of Pittsburgh.

"Down in that area, it's Pittsburgh Steelers," he said. "The people who like those other teams are just rebelling against the area. It's just a Steelers area."

Galloway said he wore "black and gold every Sunday when I was a little kid. I had my Lynn Swann jersey on running around the backyard, and you always dream of those opportunities. This morning when I came in the first time I actually went to my locker and got a chance to have a jersey in there and a helmet and you get that little kid's smile. Gosh it's been a long time I've been a fan, and I finally get a chance to put the helmet on."

So while Galloway was in Columbus awaiting a phone call from a team in need, he watched as many Steelers games as he could.

"Watching Ben, I know he's a winner," Galloway said. "Things haven't gone great, but you can tell just from watching that he's a winner and he's going to give everything he can to win games. Besides that, I'm just looking forward to getting to know him on the football field."

Is Galloway looking forward to becoming part of another 500-yard aerial circus?

"Never thought I'd see that day," he said as a broad smile broke up his gray beard. "I'm looking forward to it. I'm looking forward to being ready and being prepared to do anything they need me to do."

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