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Old 01-26-2011, 10:10 PM   #1
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Default Aging Hines Ward still a premier threat for the Steelers

Aging Hines Ward still a premier threat for the Steelers
By Gary Graves, USA TODAY

PITTSBURGH Hines Ward is good with a lower profile these days, most likely because he has worked to make sure his fellow Pittsburgh Steelers receivers get their moment in the spotlight.

By Matthew Emmons, US Presswire

One such example was on display Wednesday when the 13-year veteran simply shifted to his right to make room for cameras and recorders surrounding second-year man Mike Wallace's locker.

Ward has created space on the field as well by blocking or with deceptive route-running that has siphoned coverage away and allowed others to shine, such as the completion to Antonio Brown that sealed Sunday's AFC Championship win against the New York Jets.

Yet for all this selflessness Ward remains a threat to do some damage in Super Bowl XLV, his third NFL championship appearance in six years and coming just five years after his MVP performance against Seattle. He'll likely go up against Green Bay Packers Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Woodson, but his contributions figure to go beyond the box score.

"I don't care about a profile," said Ward, Pittsburgh's second-leading receiver with 755 yards and five touchdowns. "We're winning ballgames and there's a lot of superstars out there that have never played in a Super Bowl. I'm blessed to be playing in my third and if I win this, I think my record and what I've done in the postseason and regular season speaks for itself."

Not that the four-time Pro Bowler and Steelers' career receiving leader needs another ring to validate his Hall of Fame resume.

Ward is loathe to address that subject of retirement. Issues such as a major injury or a possible lockout could change his perspective, but barring either occurrence, life after football seems far away.

Especially since Ward's immediate focus is leading this group of receivers to another championship after that unit began another season somewhat in flux. The trade of Santonio Holmes to the New York Jets and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's four-game suspension were the most obvious questions, not counting the loss of wideout Limas Sweed to a knee injury.

Offsetting those concerns were expectations for Wallace taking the torch and having a breakout year he has delivered with team highs of 1,257 yards and 10 TDs with Ward and tight end Heath Miller (512 yards, 2 TDs) playing supportive roles. Roethlisberger has simply returned and spread the ball around to backs and receivers keeping a keen eye on Ward, of course.

"He's not trying to go out and have killer numbers like the old Hines," Wallace said. "He still wants to do well, but he just wants to win. That's the main thing, contributing to our wins, that's all."

This week, Ward has been preparing the younger players for the Super Bowl's super-sized atmosphere including endless interview and ticket requests. Wallace is among those eager to experience it while trying to keep it in perspective.

Expect Ward to provide plenty, even if he's not ready to reflect. After spending half his career chasing a championship, he has claimed two in the past five seasons and eagerly enters a third with the flexibility of being able to lead and follow.

"It will definitely be big for me personally to add another Super Bowl ring to my trophy case, but I don't know what more I can accomplish," Ward said. "Thirteen years and all the things that I've surpassed (such as Hall of Famers Lynn) Swan and (John) Stallworth, that's all I can I ask for."
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