Steelers rely on ground attack

Receivers not complaining because of team's winning record

Hines Ward caught eight passes from Ben Roethlisberger on Monday night, but he is still way off the kind of pace he has been used to for the past four years, and it's typical of the Steelers' passing game this season.

Ward leads them with 29 receptions after seven games, a pace of only 66 receptions. Last season, Ward caught 80 passes, the lowest in four seasons for him.

But the Steelers (5-2) have attempted only 159 passes, the fewest in the league, so there are not as many opportunities for their receivers. Plus, tight end Heath Miller has emerged as a receiving threat with 19 receptions, six for touchdowns.

Nevertheless, Pittsburgh's receivers aren't complaining.

"Why open it up when we're winning?" Ward said. "We all get frustrated, but you have to look at the big picture. Would we like to pass the ball more? Of course, but you can't have your cake and eat it too."

Antwaan Randle El, who replaced Plaxico Burress at split end this season, has 16 catches.

"I think it has a lot to do with winning," Randle El said. "We feel our time will come, that there is going to be a point in time that we have to put the ball up. Teams are not going to let us just keep pounding the ball like that."

Cedrick Wilson's production has fallen off the map. He has not caught a pass in the past two games, has only two in the past four and eight total. The Steelers signed him as a free agent from San Francisco, believing he had the speed and quickness to go deep.

"We want more balls, we know that," Wilson said, "because as a receiver you get paid for statistics. But on this football team you have to understand what were trying to do with the football and when you have an opportunity to make plays you make them."

Monday night, the Steelers leaned more on the pass than they have in the past two seasons. Roethlisberger threw 30 times against the Ravens and completed 18. He had never thrown more than 28 passes in a game.

"At this point, I'm very satisfied with who we are," coach Bill Cowher said. "Can we win a game throwing the ball 25-30 times? I'd like to think that we can if we have to."

There is a dichotomy of sorts working in the Steelers passing game. Roethlisberger continues to lead the NFL with a 112.4 passer rating. Yet they rank 25th in the NFL in passing.


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