PITTSBURGH – Apparently, big money is not the gateway to easy street.
"It hasn't affected how they played the game," said coach Bill Cowher. "It just speaks volumes, not just about their play, but about them as people and the reasons why they're playing this game. I couldn't be happier for both of them."
Cowher was also happy with the way the votes were dispersed throughout the team. He said 12 players received a vote and 10 of them received two votes.
"It was very reflective of how they felt about their teammates and they really do consider themselves a team," said Cowher, who said he "tabulated and shredded" the votes.
"This is not a democracy," he said.
It's similar to what Cowher said three years ago when Ward and Joey Porter were co-MVPs. Ward won the award by himself in 2003.
"I truly believe I'm getting better and better each year," said Ward. "Things started off a little shaky with the contract but this has made up for it."
Ward held out of training camp for two weeks but leads the team with 68 catches, 935 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. His catches represent a five-year low, but he's within one touchdown of matching his career-high of 12 touchdowns in 2002.
"The statistics aren't what I'm accustomed to, but what I brought in each Sunday was going out and giving it all I got, playing consistent, doing the little things, at practice doing the little things, helping guys around me, helping Heath (Miller) with the offense, pulling guys to the side.
Throughout the whole year guys recognize that and I guess that's why some of those guys voted for me."
Hampton voted for Ward; Ward for Hampton. Neither player made the Pro Bowl.
"I was joking with Hines about that," Hampton said. "I was like man this is kind of like a consolation prize. I was just messing with him. But with the MVP it doesn't really matter what people think of you on other teams; it's about what your teammates think of you and obviously our teammates think very highly of us."
Hampton is the Steelers' nose tackle, meaning he's the centerpiece of a defense that allows the fewest yards per carry (3.4) in the NFL.
"I was surprised," Hampton said of the vote. "Usually it only goes to offensive guys who put up big numbers. They like that. Or if a defensive guy does get it, like James (Farrior) had it last year, you have that incredible-type season that he had. I was very surprised, but I'm happy about it."