There’s been plenty of disappointing developments with the Pittsburgh Steelers this offseason, but as the season draws closer, there’s still one constant that you now is going to help keep the Steelers competitive this coming season – Hines Ward. He’s one of the best leaders, competitors and receivers in the game, even at 33 years of age. Ward had one of his most productive seasons a professional last season, catching 95 passes for 1,137 yards and 6 touchdowns. Ward now sits at Ward joined 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh with Jon Burton to talk about his role as Papa Smurf..aka the mentor on the team, the crop of young wide receivers he’s working with, his health, Ben Roethlisberger’s first couple of days back at camp, how he knows Big Ben is regretful, his relationship with Roethlisberger, and his Hall of Fame candidacy.
On the new crop of rookie wide receivers the Steelers are trying to work in this camp:
“They’re coming along good. It’s just any rookie, it seems like every year you try to bring them along and teach them all the things that go into being an NFL player. I mean they’re showing splashes of big plays, they’re making some plays out there in practice, and hopefully it can carry over during the preseason games.”
On how he’s feeling heading into his 13th NFL season:
“I feel good. The older you get…I’m eating better, doing a lot of training, so I reported, I was well under the weight I was supposed to report at. Coach Tomlin’s done a great job. When I got into my 30s and when he first got to the team, he said I want to maximum as many years as I can out of you. That’s why in certain cases he sits me back; there’s no need to take some practice time off these legs if I don’t need to. Some of those guys like Jerome (Bettis), they wish they would have had some off days. And Jerome had some off days as well, but he’s just trying to get as much as he can out of this body for a couple more years. But when will that day end? I don’t know.”
On his relationship with Big Ben and if his decision to walk out onto the field together with him during the first day of camp was some sort of statement:
“You look at it year in and year out, I still caught 95 balls – all from Ben. So if there was any ill will, I don’t think he would be throwing to me 95 times. So the relationship thing, there’s been some words or comments taken out of context; it wasn’t really the purpose of how they came out and people try to turn that against us too. So our relationship is respect for each other. So I love everything about what he brings to the game and I hope that he loves everything that I bring to the game. But when we’re together, we’re out there trying to compete and win, and that’s the bottom line. We’ve been blessed to win two Super Bowls together, and hopefully we’ll win another one, but it wasn’t to do anything, or propaganda or anything. That’s just a teammate of mine and I want him to understand that whatever you may think of me, I’m still your teammate and we’re going to go out there together and we’re going to face this togther.”