Out with an ankle injury, the veteran Steelers wide receiver watched Heath Miller take over as field tough guy, Mike Wallace break a 30-year-old team record, Antonio Brown slash and burn his way to a career day, and Emmanuel Sanders break the game open and then salt it away with late first-down conversions.
As their performances proved in a 32-20 win over the Arizona Cardinals, the future is now.
Coach Mike Tomlin, though, did his best to sound unimpressed.
"Those guys did that last year," he said. "We don't view them as young guys anymore."
So let's just say they're putting together terrific resumes at early stages of their careers:
* The day after his 29th birthday, Heath Miller became the franchise's sixth-leading receiver with 4 catches for 59 yards and a 12-yard touchdown that got the Steelers off and running in the first quarter.
Miller needs 20 more catches to pass end Elbie Nickel as the team's all-time tight end, and 50 more catches to pass Louis Lipps for third place on the all-time list.
Miller played with his normal hard-nosed demeanor Sunday. He bailed Ben Roethlisberger out of jams with difficult catches on 3rd-and-6 and 2nd-and-12 and his blocking was typically exceptional.
* Mike Wallace, 25, broke a team record held by three receivers when he took a pass from Roethlisberger 95 yards in the second quarter to give the Steelers a 14-0 lead. The old team record was 90 yards held by Bobby Shaw, Dwight Stone and Mark Malone.
Tomlin may not be surprised by anything Wallace does, but only two weeks ago the coach told Wallace he was no longer a one-trick pony, that he would now be called "Burnell," his given name.
"Mike had some opportunities," Tomlin coolly said of Wallace after Sunday's game. "Mike's a talented guy. You know he can run by you and he still finds ways to do it. It's kind of like kicking the ball to Devin Hester. Glad he's on our team."
Wallace finished with 3 catches for 118 yards and of course a sixth consecutive game with one catch of at least 40 yards.
* Antonio Brown, 23, had a career-high 7 catches for a career-high 102 yards. In fact, it nearly doubled his previous high of 4 catches for 52 yards in a regular-season game. Brown added 113 yards on kickoff and punt returns for an all-purpose total of 215 yards.
Brown also made the catch of the day when he hauled in a high/outside pass with one hand in full stride while managing to get two feet in bounds to convert a third-and-5 in the third quarter. The Steelers scored a touchdown three plays later to break the game open at 24-14.
* Emmanuel Sanders, 24, caught that 4-yard touchdown pass to break the game open at 24-14. He made a cut in the back of the end zone that was so crisp his cover man, A.J. Jefferson, fell down and then pounded the ground with his fist as Sanders danced.
Sanders also converted two first downs on the last drive as the Steelers killed the final 3:53. Sanders finished with 5 catches for 46 yards, easily his best game of the year.
Ward, of course, continued his march to immortality with 3 catches for 21 yards before leaving with the injury. He has 980 catches for 11,960 in his career. And a legacy of "youngsters" compiling their own impressive resumes.