"It was a case of those two guys being clearly above
everyone else," Cowher said. "It was within one vote to be honest with you,
so it was appropriate, I thought. Both of those players were very, very
deserving, as their teammates recognized."
Porter was the players' choice by the one vote, but Ward
came through Cowher's electoral system to grab a share of the award.
In his fourth pro season, Porter is the only NFL player
since the league began tracking sacks in 1982 to record 9 sacks and 4
interceptions. He's a team co-leader in both categories.
Ward, in his fifth pro season, broke the team receptions
record this season with 107 catches for 1,283 yards. He's 115 yards away from
breaking Yancey Thigpen's team receiving yardage record with one
regular-season game to play.
As for the honor, Ward was "shocked" and thought
the shared billing was a good idea.
"I think so," he said. "Just having one doesn't
represent the whole team. Having two guys with one being on offense and one on
defense winning the co-MVP, that just goes to show what Joey and I have done to
try and help our team get better. Our defense is number three in the league and
I know Joey has been a big part of that. Our offense is up there and I feel like
I have helped contribute to that, too."
The Steelers are actually fifth in the NFL in both total
defense and total offense. Ward is second in the NFL in receptions and fourth in
receiving yards. His 11 touchdowns rank second. He also has 142 yards rushing on
12 carries (11.8 average) and his three 2-point conversions this season also
leads the league.
"The year I am having really is attributed to our whole
offense," Ward said. "I wouldn't have had the year I had if it wasn't
for Tommy Maddox and Kordell Stewart and having a guy like Plaxico Burress on
the other side of me. It helps me out because I think we complement each other
very well. Without him on the other side, I knew it wouldn't be possible for
me to have the year I am having."
"This goes to show that we came a long way. I remember
when we were both on special teams and everybody was calling us special-teams
beasts. Now, getting an opportunity to be named co-MVP is a great honor."
As a rookie in 1998, Ward was second on the team in
special-teams tackles by one. Porter joined the team the following year and was
also a special-teams standout as a rookie before moving into the starting lineup
at the start of the 2000 season.
"The honor of being picked an MVP, I'm happy with
that," Porter said. "You have to think about the guys you beat out. You have
some Hall of Famers in there, like Jerome Bettis. And Jason Gildon is three
sacks away from breaking the sack record in Steelers history."
Once he gets it, Gildon may not hold the record for long.
In Porter's four seasons with the Steelers, he's recorded 30.5 sacks. Gildon
had only 17.5 sacks in his first four seasons. He's now three away from tying
L.C. Greenwood's career record of 73.5. Porter is only half a sack away from
tying Mike Merriweather for 11th place on the team's all-time sacks list. He
has one more sack than Gildon this season and also leads the Steelers with 71
unassisted tackles and 87 total tackles.
"When coach said co-MVP, I was thinking Hines and Tommy
Maddox, two offensive guys," Porter said. "The success I have been having
has snuck up on me. I did pretty well last year, so the Pro Bowl thing this year
was big. I was just happy for the whole defense helping me get that goal. MVP is
Like Porter, Ward is quickly and quietly climbing the
franchise charts. His 107 receptions this season give him 325 for his career,
which ranks fifth on the Steelers' all-time list. He's only 33 receptions
behind Louis Lipps, who's second to John Stallworth (537). With 3,842
receiving yards, Ward ranks seventh behind Stallworth's 8,723 yards.
"All the hard work is starting to pay off," Ward said.
"I'm not a vocal guy. I just try to lead by example. Joey is more of the
huh-rah guy. He gets everybody hyped. I am more of the guy that wants you to
follow how I play. I bust my tail and hopefully other guys will do the
"It's a great deal to get voted MVP by our own
teammates. It just goes to show that they see and respect us for the effort that
we have given this year."