View Full Version : Tomlin all but guarantees that Hines Ward will play in Super Bowl XLIII

01-22-2009, 08:15 AM
Tomlin all but guarantees that Hines Ward will play in Super Bowl XLIII
By Mike Ciarochi , Herald-Standard

Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward smiles during practice in Pittsburgh Wednesday. Ward did not practice with the team as he continues to rehabilitate an injured knee. Associated Press
PITTSBURGH - Perhaps simply correcting a perception he may have left with the media on Tuesday, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin all but guaranteed that wide receiver Hines Ward will play in Super Bowl XLIII against the Arizona Cardinals a week from Sunday.
"Hines is going to play," Tomlin said, just after realizing that he may have to update the media daily on Ward's status. Asked how important it might be to the offense to have Ward available, Tomlin said a mouthful.

"Not only the offense, but the team," he said. "It's the spirit and the manner with which he plays the game. His character is big."

Then, Tomlin backed off, just a bit. "If he is unable to play, it is business as usual and time for someone else to step up."

A day earlier, at his weekly news conference, Tomlin labeled the injury a sprained right knee and said that Ward faces a good deal of accelerated rehabilitation in order to be able to play.

Ward, the self-proclaimed leader of the wideouts, suffered the injury in Sunday's win over Baltimore in the AFC Championship Game. He left no doubt after the game or on Wednesday that he would play. Tomlin noted the diligence with which Ward embraced his rehabilitation from the injury as a true gauge of Ward's character and dedication to the game and his teammates.

"I get all this week off," Ward said. "I get a chance to work on this knee and see if I can get as close to 100 percent as possible. I will be on that field. I won't miss the Super Bowl."

And, if there still was any doubt, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger eliminated it.

"If the game were tomorrow, Hines would play," Roethlisberger said.

The Steelers began implementing their game plan Wednesday as though the game would be played this Sunday, just as Tomlin had promised a day earlier.

"It's cool to get it out of the way now," nose tackle Casey Hampton said. "Next week will be crazy enough. It won't be as tough for guys who have been there before, but it's a crazy week."

They did so without Ward (knee) or Roethlisberger, whom the coach said has a stiff back. Also missing the workout, were CB Deshea Townsend, DE Aaron Smith, LB Patrick Bailey (hamstring), RB Mewelde Moore (ankle), RB Willie Parker, C Justin Hartwig (knee), LB Lawrence Timmons (illness) and LT Max Starks (knee). The absences of Smith, Parker and Townsend were not injury related. None of the injuries is deemed serious enough to keep any of the players out of Super Bowl XLIII.

There were other topics of interest addressed during Wednesday's open locker room sessions. A sampling:

- Ward was asked if winning this game would put Roethlisberger among the upper echelon of quarterbacks in the league. "Winning two Super Bowls in four years should be right up there. Not many quarterbacks can say that."

- Roethlisberger was asked about going against former offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, who is the Cardinals head coach, and several other ex-Steeler players and coaches, including Scottdale's Russ Grimm. "It makes it fun to see them and play against them. We're not going to change who we are because they know about us."

- Ironically, Starks has gone from being a newbie starter at right tackle in Super Bowl XL four years ago to being the only starter back from that team. "I feel fortunate to play in a second Super Bowl, even if it is at a different position."

- Hampton said this about the task ahead for the Steelers: "They've got players at every position. We've got our work cut out for us." And this when asked how the defensive line could stop Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald: "Not letting the quarterback throw to him."

- Tomlin and many players have been asked whether Whisenhunt has an advantage over the Steelers because he knows the offensive personnel so well from his time here. Wednesday, Tomlin was asked if Roethlisberger's knowledge of Whisenhunt and his tendencies might be an advantage to the Steelers' defense. "Not just Ben, but others, like Bruce Arians, who worked with him. Those are things we'll look at and talk about. But I don't think any of that will affect the outcome of the football game. It will come down to execution, just like every football game does."