Ward among the elite

<b>PITTSBURGH - </b>When people talk about the top receivers in the NFL, they begin the conversation with the Big 3: San Francisco's Terrell Owens, Indianapolis' Marvin Harrison and Minnesota's Randy Moss. And that is usually about as far as the conversation goes.<br> <br> But over the past few seasons, it would be hard to keep the Steelers Hines Ward from making that a fabulous foursome.

Ward will not only get a chance to match himself against one of those three Monday night when the Steelers visit San Francisco, he'll get an opportunity to do it in prime time.

"I'm not going to be out there on the field with (Owens), so it's not going to be a competition between me and him," said Ward. "We're friends, so I respect him and he respects me."

Ward's numbers this season are as good as any of the receivers in the Big 3.

Ward has more receptions (60) this season than Harrison and Owens, who have 56 and 48, respectively.

He has 717 yards, compared to 777 for Harrison and 636 for Owens. And his eight touchdowns are one more than Harrison and four more than Owens.

In fact, Ward and St. Louis' Torry Holt – who leads the NFL in receptions and yards this season – may produce a new group: the Fab 5.

Ward's 60 receptions are the best in the AFC, while his eight touchdowns are tied with the Jets' Santana Moss for the most in the conference.

Still, Ward expects to be overlooked.

"When people talk about the top receivers, they don't usually mention me," Ward said. "That's for (the media) to figure out. I'm just a player, I go out and play and let everything else speak for itself."

Over the years, Owens has done plenty of speaking with his antics.

A few years ago, he caused a stir by twice celebrating on the star at the center of the field in Dallas. He has also celebrated a touchdown by taking pom-poms away from a cheerleader and doing an impromptu dance. And then there was the incident with the pen he pulled from his sock to sign a football after scoring a touchdown against Seattle.

"I just don't want to see any of those whatever he decides to do this week if he scores," Steelers head coach Bill Cowher said of Owens. "But that is not out of lack of respect for him. He is a good football player."

As is Ward.

"He is such a tremendous athlete. He is a go-to guy," said 49ers head coach Dennis Erikson of Ward. "He is so versatile. I watched him coming out of college and I think athlete is the best way to put it. He has good speed, he can jump, and he makes plays. He did that in college, he has done that in the NFL, and he is a guy that you have to make sure that you keep track of. You are not going to stop him, but hopefully you can keep him in front of you. He is just a playmaker and he is going to make plays."

Monday night's game will likely come down to which team's star receiver wins their battle.

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