Hines Ward on the state of the Steelers

Hines Ward is not only a Pro Bowl wide receiver, dangerous downfield blocking threat and team leader for the Pittsburgh Steelers, he's the reigning Chief Award winner, meaning he was the player honored last season for his cooperation with the media. He does so with enthusiasm and insight, and that's what Ward shared with us during the final week of spring practice:


Reporter: What are your thoughts on the state of the team?

Hines Ward: I'm excited. Having 100 percent attendance at the coaching sessions, having the guys here, really goes to show that we want to commit ourselves to having a good year this year.

R: How does that work? Does your coach tell you have to be here or do all the players communicate to each other that everyone should be here?

HW: No, it's really not that. I didn't even talk to that many guys when I showed up. Everybody really just showed up on their own. It's not mandatory but it doesn't look good if you're not here and everyone else is.

R: There's no reason to believe a successful passing game should change much from last year, but the running backs are healthier than they were last year. How important will that be to your offense?

HW: It looks like Jerome [Bettis] has really committed himself. He looks good. He came back in shape. Amos [Zereoue] is coming back off the year he had and Fu [Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala] is getting healthy. We have an explosive, well-balanced offensive team. If we want to pound it, we have guys capable of pounding the ball. If we want to use three wides, we've got Antwaan [Randle El] with another year and coming off a great rookie year, and we've got Tommy [Maddox] coming into his second year. We can do nothing but get better. There's only one ball to go around and I think the stats may drop off for a lot of people but it's great to have that versatility. Over the course of 16 weeks, we'll need to have all three running backs and all four, five wide receivers going because week-to-week things change because of injuries and whatnot.

R: How do you see the battle at halfback shaping up?

HW: Jerome's of course the leader and we still have Amos, who's good in situations when we go three and four wides. He's a guy who can change the pace of a game at any time. Fu can go out and be an effective runner. Regardless of whoever's out there we have confidence in all three guys.

R: Is there more enthusiasm building this year compared to last year?

HW: I think so because you're mixing in new faces and Tommy's had a full year of being the starter. Plax [Burress] and I, coming off the year we had, we're excited about having another great year. Antwaan coming back for his second year will be that much more explosive. The offensive line, we're solid up there.

R: Will this team miss Wayne Gandy?

HW: Well, I've seen Big O [Oliver Ross] in action and now this is his opportunity, just like Tommy had his opportunity. He'll have to take full advantage of it and we all have confidence in O. Sure we lost a leader in Wayne Gandy but when you lose somebody it just means it's someone else's turn to step up and take full advantage of their opportunity. I'm really excited. I mean, at training sessions, everybody's looking to get better and that's good. We're not just continuing what we did last year. We still think we can get better. We were No. 1 in time of possession but yet we turned the ball over too. That's something we want to improve upon, just take care of the fundamental things like taking care of the ball. We were No. 1 in time of possession and No. 1 in the league in total plays. If we don't turn the ball over, there's no stopping us.

R: Do you have personal goals?

HW: No. I just want to be consistent. You know, 112 balls, 1,300 yards, 12 touchdowns, that was a magical year. I thought 94 balls would be hard to accomplish, but if you go out there and be consistent week in and week out then good plays are going to happen and that's all I'm really shooting for.

Jim Wexell

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