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mesaSteeler
12-22-2011, 05:47 AM
Ward's time with Steelers is winding down

By Mark Kaboly
PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Thursday, December 22, 2011

Hines Ward has played 117 games in front of the home Pittsburgh crowd during his 14 years in the league.

Saturday against the Rams could very well be his last.

With Ward losing his starting job more than a month ago and falling as low as fifth on the depth chart, there is no guarantee that he will be back next year despite having two years left on a $22 million deal he signed in 2009.

"Nah, I don't even think like that," Ward said. "That thought hasn't even crossed my mind yet."

The thought of the Steelers without Ward has crossed the mind of Ben Roethlisberger, who has thrown Ward 41 of his 85 career regular-season touchdowns.

"It is hard to think about that," Roethlisberger said. "Is this Hines' last year? I don't know, I don't think he knows. Nobody really knows. We all know that there is a chance it could be. It is a tough thing to think about and balance and talk to him about. We don't really know how to feel about it yet."

Ward, who holds nearly every Steelers receiving record, is nine catches away from becoming the eighth NFL player to reach 1,000 receptions.

However, he has only 11 over the past six games and has been shut out twice over that span.

>> Maurkice Pouncey expects to play Saturday against the Rams, and the center said he will wear a protective brace on his injured ankle. However, if Pouncey doesn't feel comfortable with how his ankle has progressed during the week, he won't play.

"I am going to be smart about it," Pouncey said. "If I feel I can go out there and help my team out, I am going to play."

>> Running back John Clay hasn't been activated from the practice squad, but the rookie out of Wisconsin is anticipating being added to the 53-man roster to replace the injured Mewelde Moore.

"I am just waiting around to see what happens," Clay said. "I am praying for the best, and hopefully I get a chance to get activated."

>> Roethlisberger continued to deny that he took any kind of pain-killing injection before Monday's game against the 49ers.

"Why do that?" Roethlisberger said. "I don't think it happens as much as you think. I think it is one of the more idiotic things you can do."

>> Not practicing for the Steelers were CB Curtis Brown (knee), Moore, Roethlisberger (ankle) and LB LaMarr Woodley (hamstring). Pouncey (ankle) and WR Emmanuel Sanders (foot) were limited.

Mark Kaboly can be reached at mkaboly@dailynewsemail.com or 412-664-9161.

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