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Old 10-11-2009, 01:07 AM   #1
mesaSteeler
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Default On the Steelers: Hines Ward is off to his best start in years

On the Steelers: Hines Ward is off to his best start in years
Sunday, October 11, 2009
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09284/1004383-66.stm

A new name has found its way among the leading NFL receivers, right there with Moss and Wayne and Smith and Gates. The name is Ward, Hines Ward.

At 33, Ward is off to the kind of start he has not seen in five years. He is tied for third among NFL receivers with 26 receptions, and ranks sixth with 355 yards.

It is the third-fastest start of his career in terms of yardage. He had 394 yards after four games in 2004 and 361 after four games in 2003. He made the Pro Bowl both times.

"Not bad for an old fellow,'' Ward beamed.

At this pace, he would finish with a career high of more than 1,400 yards. Ward knows there will be ups and downs, bad weather and perhaps games in which the Steelers run a lot more. He also knows his offense likes to spread the football around to such other receivers as tight end Heath Miller, himself off to a hot start with 24 receptions (tied for sixth in the NFL), Santonio Holmes, Mewelde Moore and Mike Wallace.

"It's still early, I don't know." Ward said. "If I'm not getting opportunities I try not to be discouraged because they come in bunches."

Ward's average per catch is up as well, at 13.7, nearly a yard higher than last season and 1.5 higher than his career average. Receivers' averages are supposed to dip after age 30. To compare, Randy Moss, considered the ultimate tall big-play receiver, averages only 11.4 yards a catch. Giants receiver Steve Smith, who leads the league in receptions (34) and yards (411) averages 12.1 yards per catch.

"I've been getting yards after the catch,'' Ward explained. "It's what was great about getting 10,000 yards, you don't ask me to go down the field. I'm not catching 40-, 60-yard bombs like Santonio and those guys. It's run after the catch, that's why I fight for yards, you never see me run out of bounds. All those extra yards add up."
Upset specials

The Steelers are favored by more than 10 points to beat the Detroit Lions today. They have experienced bigger upset losses.

There was the time they opened the 1999 season by smacking the expansion Browns 43-0 in Cleveland, only to lose to the same Browns at home, 16-15, to begin a six-game tailspin that led to a 6-10 record. It prompted then football operations boss Tom Donahoe to declare the Steelers had better talent than to lose to the likes of Cincinnati and Cleveland at home.

There was the 20-13 loss at Oakland in 2006 to a Raiders team more pathetic than the current one, when a post-concussed Ben Roethlisberger threw four interceptions, two returned for touchdowns, one of 100 yards. There was the 19-16 overtime loss in Mike Tomlin's first year to the New York Jets, who won all of three other games that season.

The biggest upset, in style at least, occurred in 2002. The expansion Houston Texans, who would finish 4-12 in their inaugural season, came to Heinz Field to play a team that had the AFC's best record at 13-3 the previous season.

The Steelers lost, 24-6.

"That was pretty bad,'' Ward said. "That goes to show you. I think they had about 100 yards and we had 400 or 500 yards and lost the game."

It was worse than that. Houston had a grand total of 47 yards of offense and the Steelers had 422 -- and they lost by 18 points!

Quarterback Tommy Maddox pulled a triple play that game. He had interceptions of 70 yards and 65 yards returned for touchdowns. He fumbled without getting hit and the Texans returned it 40 yards for a touchdown. Houston's defense scored three touchdowns and its offense none.

Maddox threw 57 times and completed 30. He was sacked six times.

So, it can happen, even to the Detroit Lions.

"If we go out there and don't execute the way we're supposed to do, that can easily happen to anybody,'' Ward said. "We were probably favorites in a lot of games we played in. It doesn't necessarily mean we'll win the game.

"We know if we go out there and don't execute our gameplan and start turning the ball over, it will be a long day for us, especially on the road and their crowd behind them."
UFL has many Pittsburgh connections

The four-team United Football League contains a handful of former Steelers on rosters. The league began play Thursday and each team will play a six-game schedule (two games against each team) with the championship game Nov. 27 in Las Vegas.

The UFL is not officially connected to the NFL but it is NFL-friendly. NFL teams can sign players from the league at any time and I suspect some will do so as the season goes on.

The four teams are the New York Sentinels, the Las Vegas Locomotives, the Florida Tuskers and the California Redwoods.

Former Steelers defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, a Pittsburgh native, coaches Florida. Former Steelers on the rosters include three with Super Bowl XLIII rings: Offensive linemen Jason Capizzi and Jeremy Parquet with Las Vegas and long snaper Jared Retkofsky with New York.

One more is New York linebacker Rian Wallace, a fifth-round draft choice of the Steelers in 2005. Also, Mike McMahon, former North Allegheny High School quarterback, plays for the Redwoods. This is McMahon's third league after playing in the NFL and CFL.
Randle El's replacement

The play last Sunday in which halfback Mewelde Moore passed to tight end Heath Miller for a six-yard touchdown was designed as more than a surprise play for the San Diego Chargers.

It was designed to make defenses hesitate near the goalline whenever similar situations arise for the Steelers offense this season.

"You have to slow down on that running play,'' coordinator Bruce Arians explained, talking about defenses. "That's been a good goalline run for us. You have to think twice before you hit it and that may cost you a tackle."

Arians said he's wanted to use the play for awhile.

"That's something we've been working on for like two years with Moe. He's got a resume of throwing halfback passes, he's a baseball player. It's nice to have a halfback who can throw. I miss [Antwan] Randle El . . . we've been searching for one for awhile."
NFL leading receivers
Yards

Player Team Yds

S. Smith NYG 411

R. Wayne IND 399

V. Jackson SD 373

D. Clark IND 364

J. Cotchery NYJ 356

H. Ward PIT 355

A. Gates SD 349

A. Johnson HOU 336

R. Moss NE 331

C. Johnson DET 323
Receptions

Player Team Rec

S. Smith NYG 34

R. Moss NE 29

H. Ward PIT 26

R. Wayne IND 26

D. Clark IND 26

N. Burleson SEA 24

A. Gates SD 24

H. Miller PIT 24

J. Witten DAL 23

J. Cotchery NYJ 23

Peter Diana/Post-Gazette

Jim Haslett

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09284...#ixzz0TbYQWvCF
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Old 10-11-2009, 06:17 AM   #2
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Default Re: On the Steelers: Hines Ward is off to his best start in years

I would love to see Ward get a 1000 plus yard season and the pace he is on he will get it.
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