View Full Version : Ward remains 'heartbeat' of Steelers offense

08-03-2008, 03:22 AM
Ward remains 'heartbeat' of Steelers offense
By Scott Brown
Sunday, August 3, 2008

Call him small, call him slow, call him (gasp!) a possession receiver.
Draw a connection between the 32nd birthday he celebrated in March and the career-low 10.3 yards he averaged per catch last season.

Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward thrives on doubt. He needs to be questioned. He needs to be dissed. He needs to be reminded that he is neither the biggest guy nor the fastest guy -- and not exactly the youngest, either.

"He thinks the coaches think he doesn't have it anymore because he got a little older," Steelers wide receiver Nate Washington said with a laugh. "Hines always feeds off of people thinking he can't do something."

The most prolific wide receiver in Steelers history doesn't figure to stop doing that now, especially since he is entering a murky phase of his career.
Going into his 11th NFL season, Ward is the unquestioned leader of the receivers corps. Whether he is still the Steelers' No. 1 receiver is another matter given his advancing age and Santonio Holmes' emergence as one of the top deep threats in the NFL.

Holmes said Ward is "still our go-to-guy," and, to be sure, the 6-foot, 205-pounder has a well-earned reputation for making tough catches over the middle and for making clutch, third-down grabs.

But to Ward, such descriptions aren't necessarily complimentary as much as they are a glorified way of calling him a possession receiver -- and, in turn, saying he doesn't have the speed to consistently go deep.

What makes Ward bristle at such a notion: He said he has never really gotten an opportunity to showcase what he can do in the deep passing game.

"You get frustrated, but I don't let it get to me," Ward said. "Just don't say that I can't be a deep threat or don't even send me deep at all. I did run away from the fastest man, D'Angelo Hall (in 2006), with one shoe -- so I've got to be fast enough.

"That's something I've always battled: 'How can he be called a deep threat if he never goes deep?' Have you ever seen me run a post route? It motivates me to go out there and say, 'OK, when the opportunity does present itself, you've got to go out and make a play.' "

Ward has long been a master motivator, particularly when it comes to himself.

He leads the Steelers in career receptions, receiving yards and touchdown receptions. But he has never forgotten that the Steelers used first-round picks on wide receivers in consecutive years right after they had drafted him.

Ward finds slights, real or perceived, as easily as he does the soft spots in zone coverages. While talk that he is perpetually overlooked can cause eyes to roll, no one can argue that the Heinz Field-sized chip Ward has fashioned over the years isn't a perfect fit on his shoulder.

His body of work is such that it will one day put him into the discussion for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

And the four-time Pro Bowler's value goes far beyond the numbers he has produced.

Ward has always embraced the grunt work that many at his glamour position eschew. He is considered one of the best blocking wide receivers of all time, and he sets an example for his teammates in others ways as well.

For instance, Ward said, he always runs a pass pattern at full speed, even if it is practice and the ball isn't going to him, just to impress the importance of doing so to the younger wideouts.

Washington, a fourth-year veteran, said he might not be with the Steelers if not for what he has learned from Ward. Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said Ward is "still the heartbeat" of the offense.

"I've never been in a meeting room with a better veteran leader than Hines," Arians said.

Of course, Ward wants to be a leader on the field as well. That is why he has lobbied Arians to run more deep routes. He said his desire to do so stems from logic more than anything.

"I've seen a lot of coverages where Tone (Holmes) is the deep guy and Hines is the short guy, so it makes my routes a lot harder getting open when a guy knows, 'Well, this guy doesn't really go that deep,' " Ward said. "So consequently, (when) I have a corner who knows I don't go deep that often, he's going to sit on a lot of routes.

"If you sit there and say, 'Tone's a deep threat,' well he's going to get Cover 2 all the time. So you've got to have Tone on the intermediate stuff and sometimes put me on the deeper route just to be a more balanced offense and not to be so predictable.

"Santonio, we're starting to move him around. We're starting to be interchangeable, and it's only going to help our offense grow."

Ward said he is still growing as a wide receiver, which is why he is not thinking about retirement just yet.

The MVP of Super Bowl XL conceded that he could wake up one morning and tell himself that he's had enough. Or, he could play well into his 30s.

Ward and predictable rarely end up in the same huddle.

Said Washington: "I don't see him stopping anytime soon."


Galax Steeler
08-03-2008, 06:01 AM
Great read Ward is a team player and don't mind helping the younger recievers learn I think he will be a steeler for years to come and will retire as one.

08-03-2008, 07:21 AM
That is wierd about Ward being a deep threat.

He seemed pretty good at going deep in Super XL....

Galax Steeler
08-03-2008, 08:10 AM
That is wierd about Ward being a deep threat.

He seemed pretty good at going deep in Super XL....

The long touchdown pass that he caught was on a trick play.

08-03-2008, 08:16 AM
I'll take Hines exactly as he is. HInes Ward is a gem. I hope it hope it works out that he retires in the black and gold because nobody deserves it more.

steel striker
08-03-2008, 08:56 AM
Without a doubt he is a great player and, fits the mold for the steelers. He is tough as nails and, I would not trade him for any other wr.

08-03-2008, 10:33 PM
Noce post. Hines is still my most favorite Steeler from the current team, even Big Ben can't beat him out of that spot anytime sooner, I think. :wink02:

But what I liked most from this article is that the way Holmes & Washington respect the man with heartbeat. Those kind of people should stay with the Steelers for good. :tt02:

08-03-2008, 10:39 PM
I enjoyed the read...

and that is actually a very smart idea. If CB's are cueing on the short routes... a deep move will leave them far behind... especially if it is accompanied with an arm pump from Ben.

08-05-2008, 12:44 PM
What Hines says about mixing up the plays and him running more deep routes intermixed woth Santonio actually makes alot of sense.
Hines is a bit dramatic at times but I would never want to see him play for any other team. I think if he can play 4 more years he will be a soe in for the hall of fame.
Besides I bought his jersey this weekend which was long overdue....

08-05-2008, 12:46 PM
The long touchdown pass that he caught was on a trick play.

That's true, but he was also open in the end-zone on a fairly deep route when the ball glanced off his fingertips earlier in the game.

If corners are sitting on his routed makes sense to send him deep once in a while.
Mix things up and keep thenm guessing....

Lord Stiller
08-05-2008, 01:16 PM
That's true, but he was also open in the end-zone on a fairly deep route when the ball glanced off his fingertips earlier in the game.

and he also converted the 3rd and 27 play down to the 1 yard line that Big Ben took in for the 1st TD of SB XL

08-05-2008, 01:55 PM
The long touchdown pass that he caught was on a trick play.

So? He beat the "great" DeAngelo Hall like a rented mule two years ago wearing one shoe. Hines can go deep, he's just rarely ever asked to, particularly now that he's getting older.

Carolina Steelers
08-05-2008, 01:56 PM
I really enjoyed the read. I wish they would mix it up a little for him I know Holmes is faster but it seems the Ward routes are usuall 10 yds and under, would love to see him do a few more intermediate routes 15-20 yds.