Notebook: Ward rusty

LATROBE – Hines Ward practiced in pads for the first time this season, and he played to mixed reviews.

Ward dropped the first pass thrown to him during a live scrimmage, but a few plays later caught a pass over the middle from Brian St. Pierre and cut it back to daylight for a touchdown.

Ward was also the target of Ben Roethlisberger's fourth-and-9 pass on the last play of the one-minute drill, but the pass was broken up by safety Chris Hope.

After practice, Ward remained on the field for close to a half hour catching balls out of the Jugs machine and running sprints. He then signed autographs for another half hour or so.

"He looked good," said coach Bill Cowher. "His timing's off a little bit, to his own admission, but I told him he's got time."

Cowher said Ward would play in Saturday's preseason game at Heinz Field against the Miami Dolphins.

"It's good we got him here today," Cowher said. "Walter (Young) and Lee Mays were back working, so it looked like we had a whole new group of receivers out there."

Mays had a strong practice. He caught a deep touchdown pass from St. Pierre and dove for another deep ball – albeit out of bounds – from Roethlisberger.


Ward apologized to his teammates for missing two weeks of training camp, but Cedrick Wilson and Antwaan Randle El might've liked an apology for his return.

The two former starters have now been thrust into a battle for the split end – or X – position in the Steelers' offense. Right now, Randle El is the starter.

"For now," Randle El pointed out. "I just have to keep it."

Is it his position to lose?

"I have to keep winning it," he said.

Wilson is pleased with the move. He'd been playing the flanker – or Z – position during Ward's absence.

"It helps me go back to the position that I've been wanting to play ever since I got to the NFL; that's the split end position," Wilson said. "That's the position that I've learned in this offense and I'm comfortable with. It's fun."


"Well it's closer to the line of scrimmage. It's closer to the defensive back in press coverage. You can beat him off the line quicker and those are things I like to do as a receiver. I like to attack the defensive back off the line of scrimmage. Being at the flanker position, you have a couple yards in between so it's tough to beat them deep. At the X position, you've got a lot of deep routes and things of that nature and those are the balls that I like to catch."


Bryant McFadden (hamstring) and Ricardo Colclough (hip flexor) sat out practice, but Cowher said he's being cautious with the back-up cornerbacks because he wants them to play Saturday.

Fred Gibson (shoulder) was injured while diving for an incomplete pass Monday night. Cowher said he's doubtful for Saturday's game.

Kimo von Oelhoffen (back), Vontez Duff (shoulder), Joey Porter (knee) and Duce Staley (knee) also missed practice.

Roethlisberger scrambled during team scrimmage and wasn't hit, but returned to the huddle clutching his lower right quadricep. He finished his reps, took a seat on the cooler and had his left foot examined by two trainers and Dr. Jim Bradley. Roethlisberger finished practice and said someone stepped on his foot, but said nothing about his quadricep.


Rookie guard Chris Kemoeatu made some punishing blocks Monday night that caught Cowher's eye.

"Chris played very, very well," Cowher said. "He played well on offense; he played well on the kicking game. He was impressive to say the least."


Willie Parker, when asked to name the five fastest players on the team, said: "Willie, Willie, Willie, Willie and then Ike."

Ike Taylor found it amusing, but didn't find humor in a question about his 100-yard kickoff return. Taylor was almost passed by Ricardo Colclough, who caught up with Taylor to escort him into the end zone.

"I was just cruising," Taylor said.

But then someone else asked the same question.

"I did a V," Taylor huffed. "I was at one side of the end zone on one side of the field and I had to cut it all the way up. So I had to get another running start, and he was already running. Everybody's saying he's faster than me, so if y'all want to say he's faster than me, he's faster than me."

Cowher noticed Colclough's speed, too.

"I told him he revealed another gear I haven't seen in a year and a half. I saw something that now I can set another level of expectation for him. It's a little bit higher."

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