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|11-06-2006, 01:47 AM||#1|
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Steelers Notebook 11/6/06
Steelers Notebook: Ward can't thaw icy Steelers
Monday, November 06, 2006
By Ed Bouchette and Jerry Micco, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Hines Ward is getting hot as his team grows cold.
Ward caught another seven passes yesterday for 127 yards, giving him 23 receptions for 379 yards in the past three games, all Steelers losses. He had just 18 receptions for 207 yards in the season's first five games.
Yet it was his fumble at the goal line with 1:50 left that epitomized what's wrong with the Steelers this season. It was one of six turnovers yesterday and 24 halfway through the season, or one more than they committed all of last season.
"I thought I did everything I possibly could to help this team win and I let them down at the end," Ward said. "I try to be a complete player and play 100 percent. That's one percent I didn't do well on."
Ward, with 41 receptions for 586 yards, is on pace to better his totals of either 2004 or 2005, a pace of 82 catches for 1,172 yards. He did not talk much about individual success yesterday, though.
"It's tough," Ward said. 'I think the guys came out here and put their blood, sweat and tears into this game. It's been a constant thing all year. We turn the ball over and can't win.
"To start off like we did, down 14-0, it's hard to come back and win games like that. At the end, we get our opportunity and I tried to make a play, dove into the end zone. I thought the ball was over the pylon, but I guess I was a yard short. That right there just took everything out of me personally."
Running out of options
For the second time this season, coach Bill Cowher replaced his kick returner after watching him fumble the ball away.
Santonio Holmes lost a fumble returning Denver's kickoff after the Broncos scored a touchdown to take a 7-0 lead. That turnover led to a 14-0 Denver lead. The next time Holmes touched the ball on a return, this time on a punt, he fumbled it, but teammate Bryant McFadden recovered that time as the Heinz Field fans loudly booed.
That was it for Holmes. Cowher replaced him with Cedrick Wilson on punts and Ike Taylor on kickoffs, and it could be permanent.
"I don't know," Cowher said. "I'll see what my options are next week. There could be a couple of changes."
While debate raged last week whether Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger should play a week after he had a concussion, a Denver Broncos safety yesterday missed only a few plays after he was knocked woozy with a concussion.
Nick Ferguson was hurt after Hines Ward blocked him in the second quarter. However, he was back on the field for the next series until guard Alan Faneca knocked him out of the game again with a block.
"It's not up to him to say he's OK,"Denver coach Mike Shanahan said. "The doctors look at him and once they look at him they decide. He has nothing to do with it."
Steelers' running back Najeh Davenport said after yesterday's 31-20 loss to Denver that he sees a troubling trend. Not necessarily from a standpoint of play on the field, but from the officials.
"It seems since the Atlanta game, every call seems to go against us," he said. "I don't know why, but it seems calls just go for the other team."
The Steelers were called for five penalties totaling 50 yards in yesterday's loss. The Broncos were called for eight penalties and 60 yards. The Steelers were called for nine penalties for 65 yards in an Oct. 22 overtime loss to Atlanta and for six penalties and 70 yards Oct. 29 in a loss at Oakland. In those games, Atlanta was penalized six times for 40 yards and Oakland five times for 45 yards.
Coming into yesterday's game, the Steelers ranked 14th out of 16 AFC teams in penalties and yards. Only Denver and Cleveland had fewer penalties and penalty yards than the Steelers.
Some of the issue has been personal foul calls against the Steelers. The Steelers were burned by back-to-back personal foul calls on Larry Foote and Joey Porter in the Oakland game, setting up a Raiders field goal. Yesterday, a personal foul called on James Farrior on a third-and-8 play that the Steelers had stopped at the Denver 8, gave the Broncos a first down at their 23. Denver did not score on that drive, however. Later, rookie Anthony Smith was called for a personal foul on a Broncos punt return deep in Steelers territory. It gave Denver a first-and-10 at the Steelers' 17 and led to a touchdown.
"I don't know about the one on the punt, and I didn't see what happened with James Farrior," Steelers coach Bill Cowher said. "We got off the field [on the Farrior penalty]; it just cost us three more plays. We have to use better self-restraint."
The Steelers threw the ball to their running backs more than at any time this season. Referred to as a "check down," passes to running backs accounted for 12 of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's 38 completions in the Denver game.
"They did a good job today in the check downs," Roethlisberger said. "I don't know if Willie [Parker] and Najeh [Davenport] were our leading receivers today, but they caught a lot of balls and did a good job of stepping up and making plays for me."
Parker tied with Hines Ward for the team lead in receptions with seven for 67 yards and a touchdown. Davenport, who is the team's third-down back now that Verron Haynes is out for the season, had five catches for 57 yards. Parker's numbers were both career highs.
"The third-down backs here don't run the ball much," Davenport said. That certainly was the case yesterday. Davenport carried twice for 17 yards.
The Bus: It's over
Even Jerome Bettis has given up on the Steelers.
Bettis, an analyst on NBC's "Football Night in America" studio show, had this to say about his former team after its 31-20 loss:
"It is officially over. Week after week I said, 'They're a better football team than they look, they'll come around.'
"They're not coming around and they're not a better football team. When you turn the ball over game after game after game, that means you're a bad football team. The Pittsburgh Steelers are a bad football team right now."
The Steelers' 21 passing first downs tied the team record set in 1958 against the Chicago Cardinals. ... Roethlisberger's 38 completions broke Neil O'Donnell's team record of 34 set at Chicago in 1995. ... Roethlisberger's 433 yards passing (his first 400-yard game) are second in team history to the 473 Tommy Maddox threw against Atlanta in 2002, although that came in five full quarters of an overtime tie. ... Willie Parker scored two touchdowns to give him eight, stretching his career high. ... Jeff Reed's two field goals and two extra point kicks give him 453 career points, good for fifth place on the Steelers' all-time scoring list ahead of former kicker Norm Johnson. ... LB Clint Kriewaldt left the game with a back injury.
Steelers: Brian St. Pierre (No. 3 QB), WR Willie Reid, RB Duce Staley, S Mike Logan, C Jeff Hartings, G Chris Kemoeatu, OT Willie Colon, LB James Harrison.
Broncos: WR Quincy Morgan, WR Todd Devoie, S Hamza Abdullah, RB Tatum Bell, FB Kyle Johnson, LB Nate Webster, G Chris Kuper, DE Kenny Peterson.
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