Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward is getting to be that age when his production could drop off considerably. Of course, the same was said last year and all Ward did was post one of his better seasons as a professional and enhance his resume as one of the all time Steeler greats. With Ben Roethlisberger suspended for the first four games of the season, the Steelers will need the cagey Ward to be his usual versatile self, both on the field and with his exceptional leadership.
Ward joined 790 The Zone in Atlanta to talk about whether he thinks about possibly being a Hall of Famer, what he has seen out of Dennis Dixon, the team’s starter quarterback for Week 1, how he expects the Steelers to lean more heavily on the running game to start the year, being named a captain, how Roethlisberger not being named a captain shouldn’t be perceived as a demotion, and a few thoughts on the Steelers’ Week 1 opponent, the Atlanta Falcons.
On if he thinks about the Hall of Fame and his credentials for possibly getting enshrined in Canton:
“No, I don’t think about that. It’s great just to have my name mentioned in that conversation, you know, am I or am I not or whatever. But all in all, just to surpass guys like Stallworth and Swann up there, that’s a great accomplishment to me. Both of those guys are Hall of Famers, and to have my name mentioned amongst those guys is all I can ask for.”
On what he’s seen out of Dennis Dixon, who was named the Steelers’ starter earlier this week:
“One thing I think Dennis brings to the table that’s different from the other quarterbacks is he makes plays with his legs. You can see a lot of Koredell Stewart in him as far as making plays outside of the pocket. He has that capability to take it to the house at any time. But at the same time, he’s still an accurate quarterback. It’s just a matter of getting experience. At some point, a quarterback’s got to be able to get in there and see if he can play, and he’s getting his opportunity this Sunday.”
On if he expects the offense to rely more on the running game while Roethlisberger is serving his suspension:
“Yeah, there’s no question we’ve got to get back to doing that. We’re not asking Dennis to go out there and win the game. We’re just asking him to go out there and manage the game. So if he goes out there and converts on 3rd downs, not try to force things, and not turn the ball over, we’ll be fine.”
On being named a team captain in place of Roethlisberger for the 2010 season:
“Yeah, I mean, he made a mistake. He’s paying for it, trying to win back over the fans and what not. But the whole captain thing, that’s more of a natural thing to us. It’s no disrespect to Ben, it’s just that Ben’s not here. Ben’s the quarterback of this football team, he’s automatically going to be the leader. What quarterback on any team is not considered the leader of that team? So, he’s always going to be the leader of this team, it’s just a matter of I’ve been here, I’m here now, I was voted as the captain by my teammates. And also Heath Miller, a guy who’s an emerging up-and-coming tight end. He doesn’t get the recognition of some of the other guys, but what he brings to the table means a lot to us. So, it’s not like it was a demotion towards Ben, it’s just right now Ben’s right here. So Heath and I, we’re filling in right now.”
On what he thinks of Pittsburgh’s Week 1 opponent, the Atlanta Falcons, and in particular what he thinks of their secondary:
“I just like them. Grimes I really admire considering he’s a guy who really wasn’t given a chance. He’s from Pennsylvania, I think he played up here at Shippensburg, and now he’s playing down in Atlanta, getting an opportunity to start. And then, Dunta Robinson, I remember him when he was in Athens, so he’s a great corner. It’s just hard to see him because he just hasn’t been out there on the playing field in the preseason. So it’s hard to study film and watch him. I know he’s coming off a knee injury, but I expect him to be out there and fired up just to get back on the field.”