Hines Ward and Duce Staley: the "money" brothers

Hines Ward and Duce Staley are money players. Money players are guys who make big plays in big games at pivotal moments. Say, like threading the needle under pressure on a key third down, or forcing a fumble to ice the game, or coming up with the big catch in traffic. Money plays change the momentum of games, and money players incite greatness in teammates. In today's NFL, where the difference between winning and losing is razor thin, money players are gold.

In WR Hines Ward and RB Duce Staley, the Pittsburgh Steelers have two money players on offense. In big games, you can expect Hines Ward and Duce Staley to make big plays at crucial moments.

The Oakland game is a perfect example. Throughout the game, Hines Ward played at a higher level of intensity than anyone on the field. Toward the end of the game, the intensity radiating from Ward after every catch was palpable. It was clear that if the Steelers were to win this game, the ball must go to Hines Ward as much as possible. Ward had already contributed a 39 yard catch to set up a score, and Duce Staley had contributed a Walter Payton-esk run near the goal line to set up another. Said Ward: "The one run he had against the Raiders, I was blocking for him and I thought he was down but he carried a bunch of guys for every yard he could." Staley's 7 yard run from the Oakland 9 came in the money zone on the opening drive to put the ball at the Oakland 2 yard line.

(Please note that the money zone, which is the 7 yards just outside of the opponent's goal line, is not to be confused with the bus zone, which is the area between the 2 yard line and the goal line, or the red zone, which is the playful area between the 20 and 7.)

Two Bus runs later and the Steelers were up 7-0. But this game wasn't won in the first three quarters. It was won on the Steelers' final drive. The Raiders had just tied the game with a two point conversion after a long touchdown pass on 4th and 12. In two quick strikes the Steelers went from up 8 points to even ballgame at 21-21. So, with 4:51 left on the clock and the game on the line, the Steelers began what was likely to be their final drive.

Enter Hines Ward and Duce Staley. After an incomplete pass on first down, Ward converted a second and ten with an 11 yard reception. Then came a Staley run for 5 yards, a Riemersma catch for 12, and then another Duce Staley run of 11 yards. Staley's 11 yarder gave the Steelers a first down at the Oakland 39 - still just out of field goal range. That's when Hines Ward streaked open, jumped high, and came down with a 15 yard catch at the Oakland 24 that had to make even Elbie Nickel proud. Game over.

With the Steelers 1-0 and the Ravens 0-1 after the first week, another big game is being played Sunday in Baltimore. With a win, the Steelers re-establish themselves as contenders and become the favorites to take back the AFC North.

Who wins? I don't know about you, but my money's on Hines Ward and Duce Staley.

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