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Old 09-16-2009, 05:56 PM   #1
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Default Steelers' Hines Ward savors mentor role

Steelers' Hines Ward savors mentor role
By Scott Brown
Wednesday, September 16, 2009

He didn't call him "sir" or "Mr. Ward."

But a respect that initially bordered on awe came through in how sparingly rookie wide receiver Mike Wallace talked around some of the veteran players, and Hines Ward in particular, right after he joined the Steelers.

"I was just quiet the whole time," Wallace said "Just seeing all of those people, I couldn't wait to get home and tell all the people at home who I had been in the locker room with and who my locker was next to."

Wallace's dressing stall is not far from the deluxe accommodations Ward enjoys in one corner of the Steelers' locker room, and the two could be neighbors for quite a while.

Wallace has progressed quickly enough that he is battling Limas Sweed for the No. 3 wide receiver job. Ward, meanwhile, shows no signs that he is in the twilight of his career despite the fact that he is 33 and is in his 12th NFL season -- and all but claims that he could be timed in the 40-yard dash with a sundial if the critics are correct.

The slights, real or perceived, that Ward has endured make him as driven now as when he first came to the Steelers in 1998 as a third-round draft pick out of Georgia.

"I know you hit 30, and (the media) want to make us like 'Old Yeller' and put us in the backyard," Ward said, "but we've got a lot of veteran guys that are in their 30s that are productive players on this ballclub."

Ward is at or near the top of the list of those players.

He surpassed the 1,000-yard receiving mark last season for the first time since 2004, and the four-time Pro Bowler went over 100 yards receiving in the Steelers' 13-10 win over the Tennessee Titans last Thursday.

Ward had a costly fumble near the end of regulation when the Steelers had a chance to win the game. But Wallace was among those who helped pick him up.

Showing that he has taken a note or two while being around Ward in practices and meetings, Wallace caught a 22-yard pass in overtime that set up Jeff Reed's game-winning field goal.

When asked the biggest impression Ward has made on him in the short time they have been teammates, Wallace said, "Just the way he approaches the game and his attitude. He loves coming to work."

That quality is one that makes him not just an example to younger players like Wallace but veterans, too, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said.

"He wants to be the reason that we win, not only in stadiums but also around this building when no one's watching," Tomlin said of Ward Tuesday at his weekly news conference. "He's committed to doing things that put him in position to win. He doesn't run away from competition, he doesn't run away from moments."

And. Ward relishes pointing out, he can still run away from defensive backs even at his, uh, advanced age. That is one reason why the Steelers signed him to a five-year contract last April.

"I've got a lot of life left in these legs and this mind," Ward said. "The day I know I can't get open against guys I'll walk away from the game."

Tomlin's Take

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin on...

Why it can be more difficult to run the ball early in the season:

"I believe, particularly in September football, people make a commitment to stopping the run. It's easier to make a commitment in September when everyone feels good, and you've got all the horses in the stable. I think over the course of the long haul, you see who's good at it, week in and week out. It's usually tough sledding early in the football season."

Whether a 4-3 defense poses more problems in establishing the run since the Steelers practice regularly against a 3-4 defense:

"It's a factor. I'm not going to allow it to be an excuse. We have to execute to play winning football. We understand what we face schematically from these guys this week and how they play. At the same time, understanding and being able to function against them are two different things."

The Bears being without Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Urlacher, who is out for the season following wrist surgery:

"There's no question that Brian Urlacher has a unique skill set that others don't have. He brings a personality to the position, if you will, that great players bring to the positions they play. He's able to do things that maybe other 'Mike' linebackers in that scheme can't or aren't able to do. But I doubt that will affect the bottom line as far as their ability to get production out of the position."

On wide receivers Mike Wallace and Limas Sweed:

"We will continue to (play) both guys until we get clarity as to who has positioned themselves as a potential third wideout, if you will. Right now, we like the work of both of those men, and we'll continue what we're doing in regards to that."

Scott Brown can be reached at sbrown@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.
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Old 09-17-2009, 05:39 PM   #2
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Default Re: Steelers' Hines Ward savors mentor role

Great read and thanks for sharing Mesa. Is there anything that Ward can't do for this team?
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