Notebook: Ward closing on record

PITTSBURGH – Hines Ward was too busy catching passes Monday night to realize how close he'd come to a hallowed Steelers record.

Ward, 29, caught eight passes against the Baltimore Ravens to give him 29 for the season and 534 in his career. Ward needs only four receptions to pass John Stallworth and become the Steelers' all-time leading receiver.

"It's a huge accomplishment for my career," Ward said after the game. "I just found out I was three short. I wish I would've had an opportunity to break it in Heinz Field. I think that would be the ideal moment. But just being close -- only in my eighth year -- to being the all-time Steeler reception leader, I would never have dreamed it or imagined it."

Stallworth caught his passes in 14 years (1974-87) with the team. After his eighth season in the league, the 29-year-old Stallworth had 272 receptions. Ward could break the record Sunday at Green Bay.

"I never would've thought you'd put my name among the greats of Stallworth, (Lynn) Swann and (Louis) Lipps and guys like that," Ward said. "It's truly a blessing for me. Those guys epitomize Steelers wideouts. Just having my name up there with those guys is a big honor."

Ward's eight catches Monday night are a season high. The best was a juggling 12-yard catch in the second quarter. Ward and cornerback Chris McAlister both batted the bouncing ball before Ward reeled it in – just in time to receive a vicious hit from safety Will Demps.

"I got the crap knocked out of me, but I caught it," Ward said. "Ray Lewis looked over and gave me a wink and said "Heck of a play." But whoever hit me knocked the crap out of me."

THE QUIET MAN

Heath Miller caught his fifth and sixth touchdown passes of the season Monday to close in on the Steelers' all-time record for touchdown catches by a tight end – nine by Elbie Nickel in 1952.

If Miller breaks the record, nobody expects anything more in the way of celebration than a simple flip to the official.

"I know when Heath gets excited because I hang out with him and he's one of my good friends, but most people won't know," said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. "If you know him well, you know he's excited, otherwise you don't know."

Miller has touchdown catches in four consecutive games and has become a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate with his 19 receptions for 200 yards. His six touchdowns rank second in the NFL behind Steve Smith's eight. Miller is tied with Antonio Gates for the touchdown lead among tight ends.

"I don't know why teams aren't doubling him," said Ward. "He's a great complement to our passing game, especially with the loss of Plaxico (Burress). It's all about opportunities and we're finding ways to get him involved in the passing game, especially down in the red zone. He uses his size and he's got hands like glue.

ONE BAD SNAP

Cowher called it a "FUBAR" at yesterday's press conference. Using the military acronym was perhaps the most polite way to describe rookie Greg Warren's punt snap into the shins of fullback Sean Morey.

After the game Monday night, Cowher explained that Warren had misinterpreted Morey's calls on the fourth-quarter punt.

"We use a word to snap it and we use a word to identify the front, and he misunderstood the word," said Cowher, who identified the words as "easy" and "ready."

The botched snap resulted in an incomplete pass and the Ravens gained possession at the Pittsburgh 45. Five plays later, Marty Stover kicked a 47-yard field goal to give the Ravens a 19-17 lead.

"It's just one of those surreal moments that you don't really know what's going on in your life that just happened," said Warren. "Luckily, the team rallied around me and we got the win."

KEYDRICK VS. KEISEL

Keydrick Vincent was Brett Keisel's next-door neighbor in the locker room while he was in Pittsburgh, and Monday night Keisel tried in vain to get the chatty Vincent to acknowledge him.

"He didn't say a word to me," Keisel said of the Ravens' right guard. "I was trying to talk to him. I was trying to get him riled up but he wouldn't even look at me until after the game, and then he said, ‘That sack was B.S.'"

Keisel beat Vincent late in the fourth quarter to sack quarterback Anthony Wright for a three-yard loss on a third-and-three play from the 50. The next play – the Ravens' last – was an incomplete pass.

"He played well. He played real well," Keisel said of Vincent. "He and Orlando (Brown) over there are enormous guys and they block well together."

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