Ward named Steelers MVP

<b>PITTSBURGH -</b> Hines Ward needed a last-minute vote from Coach Bill Cowher to win a share of the Steelers' MVP award last year with Joey Porter. <br><br>This year, Ward didn't need his coach's help.

Ward was voted the team's MVP this week by his teammates. He becomes the fourth player since the award has been documented in 1969 to earn the award in consecutive seasons. Terry Bradshaw (1977-78), Jerome Bettis (1996-97) and Levon Kirkland (1999-2000) also won back-to-back MVP awards.

"I really didn't know what type of year I'd have considering Plaxico Burress and Antwaan Randle El," Ward said of the other Steelers wide receivers. "My main thing coming into this year was to just play consistently. If I played consistently, good things would happen to me. As far as I'm concerned, I think I played consistently. I could've played better. I don't think anybody played their perfect game or perfect season. Like I said, over a 16-week period I think I played consistently enough to go out there and put up some good stats."

Ward heads into tonight's game tied for the AFC receptions lead with 93. He has 1,152 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns. He also became the first Steelers receiver to amass 1,000 receiving yards three straight seasons. It wasn't enough, however, to make him vote for himself.

"I actually voted for Amos (Zereoue)," Ward said of the team's back-up halfback. "Even though he got an opportunity to start and things didn't go his way when Jerome (Bettis) was down, he was always that guy giving you hard work at practice. I look at things like that. Little things that people probably don't see outside of this room. He never really complained about the situation. He just kept working hard."


Last year's team Rookie of the Year, guard Kendall Simmons, appears to be bouncing back to form. After spending most of the season dealing with diabetes, Simmons had one of his better games last week against the San Diego Chargers.

"Well, you could be right but I had a couple mistakes," Simmons said. "I think I was just trying to fly around because their linebackers were getting to the hole. I liked it because (offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey) called a lot of pulling plays. I think I had a decent game."

Simmons said his strength has come back and that it "has made a big difference. Everything, health-wise, has been pretty good as far as diabetes goes. Each week I think I've improved a little bit."

His mentor, Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca, agreed.

"To deal with what he has been dealing with since one week before training camp, I think it says something for him to have to fight with that. I mean, the guy's eating ham sandwiches minutes before we're going out to games and stuff. He's come on good. He's battled hard and fought through the rough spots," Faneca said. "I couldn't imagine myself all of the sudden not having the energy, or feeling like that minutes before a game or a practice or right in the middle of it, and still having to go through it."

Simmons learned about his condition right before training camp began. He talked about his plans for the coming off-season.

"I actually plan on doing the same thing but adjust to the heat because the heat makes a difference," he said. "When it's hotter, the sugar has a tendency to go down a lot faster. Since it's been cool, it's been regulating itself pretty good and that's been helping me out. I'll have to pay more attention to it when training camp comes around."

And what about his diet?

"I used to eat anything to keep my weight up. Now I can't do that. I have to find some other ways to keep my weight where it is, maybe go up a little bit, and not affect my sugar. Good foods and maybe some proteins."

Burress on his rival, Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister, making the Pro Bowl: "Congratulations to him. He went to the Pro Bowl and I guess for the past six or seven games got those Pro Bowl votes and he went out and played good against some pretty good guys but I don't really compare myself to any of those guys that he played against. It's going to be fun and I hope they do match him up with me. It's going to be a fun match-up, as it always is, and I look to come out with the upper hand."

Back-up free safety Chris Hope on his natural position: "With my smarts and me being a somewhat good open-field tackler I think free safety could be my position, but with my aggressive nature and ability to hit people I think my natural position is strong safety."

Free safety Brent Alexander on Ravens quarterback Anthony Wright: "I was only here with him the one training camp. I came in and he was cut. But he has an excellent arm, is very rhythmic as far as once he gets into the flow of the game -- I guess streaky would be the word - and when he gets going he can be real dangerous."

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