PITTSBURGH — Dan Marino Sr. gets up early every morning and reads about his son, the Miami Dolphins' record-breaking quarterback.
The older Marino gets the paper earlier than most people, since he's a truck driver for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. So far this season, he's had plenty to read about as he makes his daily rounds.
Dan Marino, one of the National Football League's most recognizable players in just two seasons in the league, has passed for a record 48 touchdowns this season while passing by every other quarterback in the league.
That's despite being passed up by 26 other teams, including his hometown Pittsburgh Steelers, during the first round of the 1983 NFL draft.
Now, Marino will be trying to lead the Dolphins into their second Super Bowl in three years during today's American Conference championship game. On the other side of the line of scrimmage will be the the team he used to cheer for, the Steelers.
"That makes it fun, that I'm from Pittsburgh," Marino said during a telephone interview. "When I was growing up, I always enjoyed watching the Steelers. It makes it fun, it makes it interesting. But what's important to me is that we've got to win to go to the Super Bowl.
"The fact that it's the Steelers makes it fun but no matter who we were playing, I'd still be interested in the game."
Marino has been a quarterback without a slump, one who seems capable of picking apart even the most intricate of defenses.
"I really don't think about slumps or how well you're doing. I just go out and play the best I can and do what I have to do for our team to win," Marino said. "If that's completing a lot of passes and throwing for touchdowns, or handing off and letting guys run for touchdowns . . . whatever it takes. What's important to me is that we win."
The Dolphins have done plenty of that, winning 14 of 16 regular-season games before a 33-10 playoff rout of the Seattle Seahawks established them as 10-point favorites in the AFC title game.
His performance--5,084 yards, just 17 interceptions in 564 pass attempts--seems above criticism. But he has his critics, just as he did as a senior at the University in Pittsburgh in 1982, when the Panthers ended 9-3 and didn't win an expected national championship.
He still draws darts for stubbornly throwing the ball into traffic, for trying to complete what appear to be impossible passes against strong defenses.
His critics do not include Miami Coach Don Shula or Steeler Coach Chuck Noll.
"They have a very dynamic offense that starts quick and makes the big play," Noll said. "There's no question about it, we have to keep Dan Marino off the field, because when he's off the field, they can't score. I guarantee you he's going to sit back there and throw. He's an excellent talent."
"He challenges defenses," Shula said. "There have been games where he's made a poor decision or thrown an interception but that's something we don't dwell on. We line up and play the next play. Dan has had a super year. He's a very competitive person. He doesn't dwell on negative things. He's not afraid to lose.
"He challenges defenses and when you do that, they're going to make some plays against you. He knows it and we know it but we want him to continue doing what he's done."
What he did in the Dolphins' earlier 31-7 victory over the Steelers was throw for 226 yards and two touchdowns.
"We tried to use some pressure defenses before but we didn't get much pressure," Noll recalled.
What Marino isn't feeling is the pressure of facing his hometown team .
"We scored a lot of points on them but our defense scored once and put us in a position to score another time," Marino said. "I think it's different now because everything is on the line. It'll be a different ballgame."