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He's Larry Little's younger brother and Jack Lambert's replacement. David...

By
DAVE RAFFO, UPI Sports Writer

MIAMI -- He's Larry Little's younger brother and Jack Lambert's replacement.

David Little has some big shoes to fill.

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Playing Lambert's inside linebacker spot, Little has helped the Pittsburgh Steelers into Sunday's AFC Championship game against the Miami Dolphins. Little grew up less than two miles from the Orange Bowl and was a fan of the Dolphins, especially when his brother Larry was a four-time Pro Bowl guard between 1969-78.

'The Dolphins were my team,' Little said after the Steelers' workout at the Orange Bowl Saturday. 'They were my family's team. They've sort of shifted toward Pittsburgh now.'

All but one.

'It's hard to say about Larry, in the back of my mind I think he likes Pittsburgh,' Little said.

Little is just settling into the strongside inside linebacker spot and, although Lambert was activated Friday, Little will start.

He's coming off a five-tackle, two-sack effort in last week's 24-17 playoff victory over Denver. During the regular season, the 6-foot-1, 230-pound Little finished fourth on the team with 86 tackles. Until this season, Little played mostly on special teams and short-yardage situations since the Steelers made him a seventh-round draft choice out of Florida in 1981.

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'I feel bad Jack got hurt but I'm happy for the chance to play,' Little said. 'Pittsburgh is known for good linebackers, we try to keep the tradition up.

'When you play Lambert's position, your job is to make big plays.'

Lambert made big plays for most of his 11 years with the Steelers. However, a dislocated toe and ankle injury had him on the sidelines for most of this season.

Lambert's injury was one of many on the Pittsburgh defense. As a result, the unit was shuffled until emerging as one of the AFC's top units. The Steelers' new linebacking tandem consists of eight-year veteran Robin Cole, third-year players Mike Merriweather and Bryan Hinkle, and Little.

The Steelers are the toughest AFC team to run against, giving up 101.1 yards per game and 3.6 per rush. They held the Broncos to 51 yards rushing last week and limited 1,000-yard gainer Sammy Winder to 37 yards.

Lambert's activation might just be a formality for the Steelers. Coach Chuck Noll said he'll use the veteran on prevent defenses but Lambert doesn't expect to play much Sunday.

'I have no input,' Lambert said. 'I told them I'm ready. I'd sure like to try.'

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Lambert, one of the greatest linebakcers in NFL history, has played on all four Steelers' Super Bowl championship teams and is on his ninth playoff team.

At 32-years-old, it might be his last playoff appearance.

'He's a special player,' Noll said. 'But David Little had done an outstanding job in his place.'

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