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|02-04-2011, 07:35 AM||#1|
A Son of Martha
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Ward is Steelers' receivers' peerless leader
Ward is Steelers' receivers' peerless leader
By: Mike Bires
Beaver County Times
Thursday February 3, 2011 11:54 PM
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward, right, answers questions during a news conference on Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011, in Fort Worth, Texas. The Steelers will play the Green Bay Packers in NFL football Super Bowl XLV Sunday, Feb. 6. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
FORT WORTH, Texas — Hines Ward likes to call himself “the leader of the wideouts.”
He’s not bragging when he says it, and none of his teammates ever have a problem with it. Everyone knows that’s exactly what he is. He leads with his play. He leads with a willingness to share his knowledge with any of the wide receivers who’ve joined the team over the past 13 years.
And Thursday night, Ward led again by gathering up the entire Steelers wideout corps and taking them out to dinner on his dime.
“I just want to get their whole perspective on the Super Bowl, to see where they’re at,” he said. “I thought it would be kind of unique for all the wideouts to get together and break bread and eat together, sit around at the table and talk about our experience.”
It must have been priceless for second-year pro Mike Wallace and rookies Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown to experience a relaxing night out in North Texas with Ward just three days before Super Bowl XLV.
“I remember how ecstatic I was when the Steelers drafted me,” Sanders said. “How great it was to be going to a great organization like the Steelers with the Rooney family and their winning tradition. But, I was really ecstatic because my mentor is Hines Ward.
“He’s been playing in the NFL for 13 years. He’s got two Super Bowl rings. He’s a Super Bowl MVP. I couldn’t have come into a better situation. I was just trying to get in there and get under his wing. In meetings, when he’s talking, I constantly listen to him and try to see the game how he sees it because of everything that he has accomplished, I want to accomplish. I know he’s going to help me in all phases of it.”
Certainly, Ward has accomplished much since he was taken by the Steelers in the third round in 1998. He’s put up numbers worthy of serious Hall of Fame consideration. He’s the franchise leader in 15 statistical categories, including most catches (954), receiving yards (11,702), touchdown catches (83) and most receptions in a season (112 in 2002).
Ward has 81 more career catches than John Stallworth (537) and Lynn Swann (336) combined. And both of those former Steelers are in the Hall of Fame.
“They epitomize what a Steeler wide receiver is all about,” Ward said. “I’ve been very blessed to be in a great organization, much less surpass those guys or have my named mentioned with Swann and Stallworth. It’s a big honor.
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“Those guys won four Super Bowls. I have an opportunity to win three. I’m very excited for that opportunity.”
It will only help Ward’s chances of Hall of Fame induction if the Steelers beat the Packers on Sunday. That would be especially true if he plays well.
Ward does have a history of playing well in big games. He’s caught at least one pass in all 16 playoff games he’s played. In those games, he caught 81 passes for 1,103 yards and nine touchdowns.
Of course, his most memorable postseason game was Super Bowl XL in Detroit. In that win, Ward caught five passes for 123 yards, with 43 of those yards coming on a flea-flicker thrown by wide receiver Antwaan Randle El.
“To still be here at such a high level after 13 years is really amazing,” said Ward, who caught 59 passes for 755 yards and five TDs during the regular season.
“In every Super Bowl I’ve played in, I’ve had a different counterpoint opposite me. I just remember Randle El throwing me the ball in Super Bowl XL, then Santonio Holmes in Super Bowl XLIII catching that ball in the end zone.
“And here I am, still plugging along at it. I know one day, eventually, one of these young guys will replace me. But you know, I don’t look at that. It’s not what they do, it’s what I do. If I start to see signs that I’m falling off, or I’m not getting open against guys that I think I should get open, I’ll walk away from the game easily.”
But that won’t happen after Sunday night, win or lose.
Ward, 34, has no intention of calling it a career. He’s not going to do what Jerome Bettis did six years ago after helping the Steelers win a Super Bowl in his native Detroit and retire while he’s on top of the football world.
“I’m not retiring. I’m not in the mood to retire,” said Ward, who’s under contract through the 2013 season.
“That was the number one question that was asked of me this week. It’s almost like they’re pushing me out. But until coach (Mike) Tomlin says he does not need my services anymore, I am going to continue playing.”
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