Q&A: Hines Ward

Hines Ward is part of a dying breed in that he answers questions honestly. Steelers fans will be pleased to know what Ward's thinking about the team these days. Read his interview with Jim Wexell below.

Hines Ward, wide receiver, Pittsburgh Steelers

You were a great special teams player when you were younger. Why didn't they come ask you to play teams this spring?

It's a lot harder than a lot of people think. Back then I was the fourth wideout. You do a third-down play and then you've got to go out there on the punt team and there I was, I had to run down there after running a sprint on third down and tackle somebody, especially me. You play college all those years and you really don't know how to tackle right. I just gave it all my best and hoped for my best and some good things happen. Special teams is want-to. The guys who do it are special guys. And to be a starter and be willing to play special teams, and be effective at it, is something that takes a special guy. Charles Johnson a long time ago told me I had to make the team on special teams and I made a name for myself there.

When they said ‘All Hands on Deck,' were you worried the special teams coach would come calling?

No, not really. There's a big difference from the point I was at then to the point I'm at now.

How are the young wide receivers doing?

I like them. They're young. You see all the mistakes that every rookie makes. They're thinking a lot, but yet they're still going out and making plays. Eric (Deslauriers) is really coming on; so is number 82 (Eric Fowler). Those guys are just constantly asking me questions all the time, and they're questions I understand why they're asking. One thing I try to tell them is: Make sure you get the offense down now, because once training camp comes it's about this team. It's about this team getting 53 guys who'll best help us win and go to the playoffs and the Super Bowl. We don't have time to baby and wait for one guy. Once training camp comes, we've got to be hitting on all cylinders. Everybody's got to be on the same page and go out and make plays. And that's something they're doing, they're progressively getting better every day.

You gave me a couple guys. Has any one of them caught your eye the most?

Um, (Dallas) Baker, our seventh-round pick. Every day he's learning more and more. With his size, that's something you can't teach. You always have the advantage over most defensive backs with size and Dallas Baker is learning how to use his size. He's going to make some plays for us.

Little No. 19 (Gerran Walker) seems to make a lot of plays.

He's constantly making plays. And I tell him, Gerran, you're going to have to make a positive impact on special teams. Each day he's coming out and making play after play and catch after catch, but the opportunity for him will come through special teams. Every time he goes out on special teams, I tell him he has to take the same approach that he takes in trying to be a starting wide receiver on this team.

Ben Roethlisberger made a throw to you yesterday while he was on the run …

Yeah, over on the sideline.

Right. He's still got that magic while he's on the run, doesn't he?

Yeah, he has a knack for that. It's an intangible that's one of his strengths. To be his size and to be that mobile, and still throw the ball like that on the run, is something special. I mean, the ball, he put it the only place where I could catch it. It was a completion. They blitzed from the left, he rolled the other way, gave me the opportunity, and threw it to where only I could get it. Plays right there you can't really coach or teach, he just has it. He can get outside the pocket and make plays on the run. A lot of teams are trying to keep him in the pocket because he makes so many big plays outside the pocket.

How's his overall game coming? Is he getting better?

It's coming good. He's developing. A lot more emphasis has been put on him and a lot more will be expected from him. He's learning a lot more coverages and defensive schemes. In this offense, the quarterback is really the catalyst of everything. He has to make all the calls, and whatever calls he makes, 10 others will go off that call.

So you have a positive outlook from what you're seeing?

Yeah, I feel good, real good. We've got some new guys on the offensive line with Willie (Colon) trying to play center and not having Alan (Faneca) around. Right now we're trying to find a chemistry on the offensive line so we have all 11 guys having the continuity with one another in the huddle. That's what we're trying to develop here in the OTAs.

If Heath Miller is going to catch 90 balls, how many are you going to catch this year?

Heath?

Bruce Arians predicted that in one of the papers.

Oh, I don't know. If he catches 90, then it may mean that I'm out of here.

Or it means you're catching 160.

Exactly. That's slinging it. But, Heath, we're going to utilize him more. We're going to utilize him a lot. But I don't know if the opportunities will be there. It's something I've developed in my mindset. I just wait for the opportunities to present themselves. I never go into the year saying I'm going to catch 100 balls. That's pretty much unheard of in Pittsburgh.

That's Santonio Holmes's goal.

Yeah, we all set goals. But how long was 85 catches the record here? We all want to catch 100 balls but we know there aren't enough balls to go around. Hey, I remember Heath against Miami. He caught the long ball and everybody thought he was going to lead the whole thing. Heath is definitely a weapon and we definitely have to utilize him, but I don't know how many catches any of us will get. In a fantasy world I wish we all could catch a hundred balls.


Steel City Insider Top Stories

\r\n\r\n\r\nHines Ward, wide receiver, Pittsburgh Steelers\r\n

\r\nYou were a great special teams player when you were younger. Why didn't they come ask you to play teams this spring?\r\n\r\n \r\n

\r\nIt's a lot harder than a lot of people think. Back then I was the fourth wideout. You do a third-down play and then you've got to go out there on the punt team and there I was, I had to run down there after running a sprint on third down and tackle somebody, especially me. You play college all those years and you really don't know how to tackle right. I just gave it all my best and hoped for my best and some good things happen. Special teams is want-to. The guys who do it are special guys. And to be a starter and be willing to play special teams, and be effective at it, is something that takes a special guy. Charles Johnson a long time ago told me I had to make the team on special teams and I made a name for myself there. \r\n

\r\n \r\n\r\nWhen they said ‘All Hands on Deck,' were you worried the special teams coach would come calling? \r\n\r\n

\r\n\r\nNo, not really. There's a big difference from the point I was at then to the point I'm at now. \r\n\r\n

\r\n\r\nHow are the young wide receivers doing? \r\n\r\n

\r\n\r\nI like them. They're young. You see all the mistakes that every rookie makes. They're thinking a lot, but yet they're still going out and making plays. Eric (Deslauriers) is really coming on; so is number 82 (Eric Fowler). Those guys are just constantly asking me questions all the time, and they're questions I understand why they're asking. One thing I try to tell them is: Make sure you get the offense down now, because once training camp comes it's about this team. It's about this team getting 53 guys who'll best help us win and go to the playoffs and the Super Bowl. We don't have time to baby and wait for one guy. Once training camp comes, we've got to be hitting on all cylinders. Everybody's got to be on the same page and go out and make plays. And that's something they're doing, they're progressively getting better every day. \r\n

\r\n \r\n\r\nYou gave me a couple guys. Has any one of them caught your eye the most? \r\n

\r\n \r\n\r\nUm, (Dallas) Baker, our seventh-round pick. Every day he's learning more and more. With his size, that's something you can't teach. You always have the advantage over most defensive backs with size and Dallas Baker is learning how to use his size. He's going to make some plays for us. \r\n\r\n

\r\n\r\nLittle No. 19 (Gerran Walker) seems to make a lot of plays. \r\n\r\n

\r\n\r\nHe's constantly making plays. And I tell him, Gerran, you're going to have to make a positive impact on special teams. Each day he's coming out and making play after play and catch after catch, but the opportunity for him will come through special teams. Every time he goes out on special teams, I tell him he has to take the same approach that he takes in trying to be a starting wide receiver on this team. \r\n\r\n

\r\n\r\nBen Roethlisberger made a throw to you yesterday while he was on the run … \r\n\r\n

\r\n\r\nYeah, over on the sideline. \r\n\r\n \r\n

\r\nRight. He's still got that magic while he's on the run, doesn't he? \r\n\r\n

\r\n\r\nYeah, he has a knack for that. It's an intangible that's one of his strengths. To be his size and to be that mobile, and still throw the ball like that on the run, is something special. I mean, the ball, he put it the only place where I could catch it. It was a completion. They blitzed from the left, he rolled the other way, gave me the opportunity, and threw it to where only I could get it. Plays right there you can't really coach or teach, he just has it. He can get outside the pocket and make plays on the run. A lot of teams are trying to keep him in the pocket because he makes so many big plays outside the pocket. \r\n\r\n \r\n

\r\nHow's his overall game coming? Is he getting better? \r\n\r\n \r\n

\r\nIt's coming good. He's developing. A lot more emphasis has been put on him and a lot more will be expected from him. He's learning a lot more coverages and defensive schemes. In this offense, the quarterback is really the catalyst of everything. He has to make all the calls, and whatever calls he makes, 10 others will go off that call. \r\n\r\n

\r\n\r\nSo you have a positive outlook from what you're seeing? \r\n\r\n

\r\n\r\nYeah, I feel good, real good. We've got some new guys on the offensive line with Willie (Colon) trying to play center and not having Alan (Faneca) around. Right now we're trying to find a chemistry on the offensive line so we have all 11 guys having the continuity with one another in the huddle. That's what we're trying to develop here in the OTAs. \r\n\r\n

\r\n\r\nIf Heath Miller is going to catch 90 balls, how many are you going to catch this year? \r\n\r\n

\r\n\r\nHeath? \r\n\r\n

\r\n\r\nBruce Arians predicted that in one of the papers. \r\n\r\n

\r\n\r\nOh, I don't know. If he catches 90, then it may mean that I'm out of here. \r\n\r\n

\r\n\r\nOr it means you're catching 160. \r\n\r\n

\r\n\r\nExactly. That's slinging it. But, Heath, we're going to utilize him more. We're going to utilize him a lot. But I don't know if the opportunities will be there. It's something I've developed in my mindset. I just wait for the opportunities to present themselves. I never go into the year saying I'm going to catch 100 balls. That's pretty much unheard of in Pittsburgh. \r\n\r\n

\r\n\r\nThat's Santonio Holmes's goal. \r\n\r\n

\r\n\r\nYeah, we all set goals. But how long was 85 catches the record here? We all want to catch 100 balls but we know there aren't enough balls to go around. Hey, I remember Heath against Miami. He caught the long ball and everybody thought he was going to lead the whole thing. Heath is definitely a weapon and we definitely have to utilize him, but I don't know how many catches any of us will get. In a fantasy world I wish we all could catch a hundred balls. \r\n\r\n

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