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Old 05-13-2006, 06:48 PM   #1
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Default Ward has look of a rookie at minicamp .....

May 13, 2006
CBS SportsLine.com wire reports:

PITTSBURGH -- Somebody watching a Pittsburgh Steelers practice for the first time Saturday might have thought Hines Ward was a new player, not the Super Bowl MVP.

For coaches to readily identify new or unfamiliar players, it is common for an NFL rookie's last name to be written on a piece of tape attached to the front of his helmet.

So why was Ward's name taped above his face mask during the first day of the team's three-day minicamp?

The four-time Pro Bowl receiver plans to wear his name on his helmet during practice until the season starts, if only to make the statement that last year is over and the Steelers must start anew if they want to win the Super Bowl. Again.

"I'm not taking that tape off until I make the team," Ward said. "That's my new motivation. We got all that old out of the way. This is how I did it when I first got here, and I'm recommitting myself."

The Steelers' two practices had a different feel to them, and not only because they are three months removed from winning the franchise's first Super Bowl title in 26 years.

For the first time in 10 years, Jerome Bettis wasn't around. One of the most productive and influential players in franchise history retired minutes after the 21-10 Super Bowl victory over Seattle on Feb. 5, and his absence was apparent.

While part of Bettis' locker space is being filled by rookie receiver Willie Reid, Bettis' No. 36 was nowhere to be found.

The Steelers have officially retired only one number, the No. 70 of 1950s-era lineman Ernie Stautner, but they have traditionally kept from handing out such numbers as 12 (Terry Bradshaw), 32 (Franco Harris), 58 (Jack Lambert), 59 (Jack Ham) and 75 (Joe Greene). Bettis' No. 36 now seems destined to be included on that list.

It was obvious to Ben Roethlisberger that Bettis was gone -- it was one of the quietest practices the quarterback could remember.

"You don't hear anybody yelling right now, do you?" Roethlisberger said, laughing. "It's one of those things where you lose a great friend out of this locker room, me in particular, a guy who's a leader. We'll have guys step up for a leadership role and will try to raise the bar and push the young guys, but you still miss him, obviously."

Ward said the Steelers won't have to look far for a replacement. Roethlisberger emerged as a leader during the eight-game winning streak that carried the Steelers to the Super Bowl, and Ward expects him to grow into that role even more this season.

Ward also hopes Roethlisberger's ever-expanding influence also leads the Steelers to open up the offense more to play to the quarterback's strengths. Roethlisberger's throwing was primarily responsible for the AFC road playoff victories at Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Denver that got Pittsburgh into the Super Bowl.
Once the season ended, offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt said he expected the passing game to further expand this season. Coach Bill Cowher said the Steelers moved up in the draft to take wide receiver Santonio Holmes in the first round primarily to give Roethlisberger and the passing game yet another asset.

Roethlisberger knows the Steelers will never abandon the running game, especially after a brief flirtation with a pass-heavy offense led to a 6-10 record with Tommy Maddox at quarterback in 2003. But Roethlisberger wants the passing game to be at least equally important to the running game, not subservient to it.

"Every day I kind of say something to Coach Cowher jokingly, hoping he'll take me serious," Roethlisberger said. "I just hope that every year they gain more confidence in me and we go out and are a more balanced offense, maybe more dangerous. Hopefully they see that we can pass and win if we have to."

Holmes stood out in his first practice, stretching out twice to make difficult catches that quickly caught Roethlisberger's attention. Holmes has less time to impress than the other rookies; because of an NFL-NCAA agreement, he cannot take part in the three weeks of post-minicamp coaching sessions because his Ohio State class won't graduate until mid-June.

As a result, Holmes can't work out again with the Steelers after this weekend until training camp starts in late July.

"Coach told me, 'Make your mistakes right now, so you can learn from all those things when we watch film,"' Holmes said. "'Get your mistakes out of the way now."'
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Old 05-13-2006, 06:55 PM   #2
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Default Re: Ward has look of a rookie at minicamp .....

Ladies and gentleman, remember that "void" of leadership we've been worried about, and have been forced to hear fans from other teams annoyingly talk about?

That vacancy has been filled.
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Old 05-13-2006, 06:58 PM   #3
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Default Re: Ward has look of a rookie at minicamp .....

I'm glad to read that Holmes stood out today. I got into a heated arguement at a bar last night about the Steelers repeating as Super Bowl Champs. I live in Bears and Colts country. So they all were telling me that the Steelers won't repeat since we lost Randle El and how important he was to our offense. I told them El won't be as missed as some think. El had 35 catches and a TD as a reciever. I'm sure Wilson can put up them numbers or better as our number two. Throw in Holmes in the mix as well and El won't be missed at all from a reciever standpoint.

The trick plays that we used El for will be missed. But how many of them plays do we really run in a season. Not that much to really have an effect on our offense in my mind. El will be missed a punt returner. But Willie Reid was a great punt returner in college and has the natural skills for returns.

I'm glad to hear the goods news from the first practices. Here We Steelers Here We Go.
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Old 05-13-2006, 07:02 PM   #4
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Default Re: Ward has look of a rookie at minicamp .....

you gotta love-

hines re dedication and leadership
bens confidence
hines vote of confidence to his qb
the foundation being laid for all the new comers
reaffirming how important bettis was to the team. it sucks hes gone.
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Old 05-13-2006, 07:06 PM   #5
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Default Re: Ward has look of a rookie at minicamp .....

Quote:
Originally Posted by Suitanim
Ladies and gentleman, remember that "void" of leadership we've been worried about, and have been forced to hear fans from other teams annoyingly talk about?

That vacancy has been filled.
and we have yet to hear from porter (other than pretty much calling chad johnson a clown)

the steelers have had leadership to spare since last season (especially with the emergance of ben, and the veterans more than willing to hand the leadership role over to him) theres a reason hines and quiet ones like hampton and farrior have been voted team mvp over and over.
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Old 05-13-2006, 07:10 PM   #6
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Default Re: Ward has look of a rookie at minicamp .....

No offense to a former Steeler whom i liked, but EL will not be missed for his receiving skils and we will most remember him for that pass he threw in the SuperBowl period. The 35 catches and 1 TD i think will not be a problem in making up and i do think that Holmes will be an upgrade, along with Wilson to that position. I also think that Washington and Morgan along with Reid will make us a much better receiving core. The trick plays will come in some fashion i am sure when they want to use them. The only thinkg we may have lost from last year doesnt come from a production standpoint.... it will be Bettis's leadership and the fact of everyone having that one person to look up to and look for when you need that one player to speak up for the team to get everyone else motivated. Ben, Ward, Troy, Hartings, Faneca, Hampton, Townsend, Staley, Farrior, Porter, Haggins, Smith... it will eventually go to a few of these guys to take on that role.. I have no idea where people think we will lose anything as far as production is concerned.. That is absurd.
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Old 05-13-2006, 07:14 PM   #7
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Default Re: Ward has look of a rookie at minicamp .....

Steelers have plenty of leaders on both offense and defense. On offense Hines Ward and Alan Faneca are looked up as leaders. But I to me if your QB isn't a leader then your team in trouble. Ben has proved in his young career that he has the qualities to be a leader. He became more a leader last year and I see him taking much more leadership on this year.

On defense Big Casey, Joey Porter and James Farrior all are leaders in their own way. Yea Bus and Kimo will be missed since they were great leaders but the Steelers will be fine in the leadership department.
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Old 05-13-2006, 07:21 PM   #8
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Default Re: Ward has look of a rookie at minicamp .....

Quote:
Originally Posted by Midnightwriter07
I have no idea where people think we will lose anything as far as production is concerned.. That is absurd.
its the same people who thought that the production of el, wilson, and miller could no way replace p. burress. 3 to replace 1 has been a proven effective method. humes, duce, and haynes can replace bettis' production, and he took ben under his wings to teach him how to be a leader. this is bens team despite the overabundance of leadership. if ben ever goes down there will be a long line of players to fill his leadership role. other than that, the production on the field should be an upgrade especially with ben, heath, and willie being the young core of the offense (3 years or less experience yet they all seem like seasonned vets).
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Old 05-13-2006, 07:27 PM   #9
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Default Re: Ward has look of a rookie at minicamp .....

Pumped and ready to go, well thats me. But it sounds like Ward is set and ready also. Let go! Hines is taking over.
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Old 05-13-2006, 07:29 PM   #10
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Default Re: Ward has look of a rookie at minicamp .....

Tony exactly and totally agree. I got into a heated arguement last night at a bar about the loss of El. But I was arguing mostly with Bears and Colts fans and they don't really see that El didn't have the big of impact on our offense. They just see the ESPN highlights and they overrate El's importance. I brought up the fact last night that people thought the Steelers would be in trouble this past year since we lost Plax. Yea we sure missed Plax all the way to a Super Bowl title.

Wilson will be fine as the number two. Holme's speed and his solid route running skills will allow him to have some impact as a rookie. I always take it slow with rookies and don't expect to much. But I wouldn't be suprised if Holmes makes alot of big plays this year. As for the trick plays. Who knows what Whiz will cookup? Anyways to make up for the few trick plays we did run with El. How about just let your young franchise QB throw more. Ben will have his thumb fully healthy. I would like to see Ben challenge for Terry Bradshaw's single season TD record. I think Ben could do it if given the chance.
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