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mesaSteeler
12-13-2010, 06:26 AM
Ward at peace with age
http://www.timesonline.com/sports/sports_details/article/1501/2010/december/12/ward-at-peace-with-age.html
By: Andrew Chiappazzi
Beaver County Times

Sunday December 12, 2010 10:59 PM

PITTSBURGH — As Hines Ward enters into the twilight of his stellar NFL career, questions have emerged about his future with the Steelers and in the league.

Has the 13-year veteran lost a step? Can his body continue to handle the punishment that possession receivers endure over the middle? Will some young buck emerge and push him out?

If Sunday’s performance is any indication, the 34-year old Ward has quite a few years left.

Ward caught a season-high eight passes for 115 yards in the Steelers’ win over Cincinnati, rising up to remind everyone that he’s still Ben Roethlisberger’s security blanket, especially with tight end Heath Miller on the shelf.

“That’s Hines Ward. I could sit here and talk all day about the effort, the will to win, his determination and his toughness,” Roethlisberger said. “But, we’ve been seeing that for (13) years or however long he’s been playing.”

Miller’s absence forced the Steelers to do something they’ve had to do all year long: Tap the next man up and keep going full speed ahead.

“When you lose a guy like Heath Miller, of course your offense is going to be hindered a little bit. You can’t lose a beat,” Ward said. “Our offense is not predicated on one guy. When Ben wasn’t in there, we found a way to get it done. Heath is a great tight end, but Matt (Spaeth) and (David Johnson) came in and filled in good. That’s why you have 53 guys on the roster.”
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On seemingly every possession, someone new stepped up. Spaeth and Johnson took over at tight end. Isaac Redman filled in some blocking duties. And Antwaan Randle El, who had been passed up by young guns Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown on the receiving depth chart, came up with an acrobatic catch to keep the Steelers on the march.

“It makes you work on the craft on the field and in the classroom, just making sure I’m ready to go,” Randle El said. “Being able to come up and make those plays when my number is called means not only a lot to the team, but to me.”

Has Ward lost a step? Maybe. But in the rain and slop at Heinz Field, it didn’t matter. Ward consistently found separation against the Bengals, and Roethlisberger looked his way on a regular basis.

“I’m not the fastest guy, but at Heinz Field in this weather, everyone’s speed comes down to mine,” Ward said, a sly grin on his face. “That’s how I still know I have a lot of football left. If I can still get open on guys and make catches the way we did, it’s a great feeling to contribute to a win.”