BGI Analysis: Bettis played key role in getting Ward to return

Star receiver expected to agree to new contract within two weeks

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Jerome Bettis, I'm told, is a big reason that Hines Ward is back with the Steelers today.

Those lines of communications that were kept open? Bettis, with a helping hand from Bill Cowher. Bettis kept talking to Ward, urging him not to do anything drastic that would either hurt himself or the team.

As you may have seen the day after the AFC championship game in January, Ward has tremendous respect for Bettis. So, while many were ripping the Bus for what he told me in Sunday's story regarding Ward's contract holdout, it was Bettis who helped end it.

What happens now? Ward said all the right things last night, and I believe a contract will happen over the next two weeks. He'll have to give a little, but I think what he did yesterday will move the team off its previous stance and he will benefit by it.

It's all good if you are either a) a Ward fan, b) a Steelers fan, c) both. It's also fortunate for them that it happened now, with three preseason games left. They are trying to move their wide receivers around in different positions this year and Ward plays a big part in that.

The three top wideouts -- Ward, Cedrick Wilson and Antwaan Randle El -- will be positioned at split end, flanker and in the slot. Not in any particular order. Sometimes Wilson will be the split end, sometimes the slot. Sometimes it will be Randle El at flanker or split end. Same with Ward. Last year, defenses lined up the way Plaxico Burress lined up because they knew he was doing one thing -- playing the split end position. The Steelers hope to keep those defenses guessing this year.

Having Ward in camp means they can resume their work that began in the spring, building the rapport with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

And one more big thing -- all those emails can cease and desist. I read them all, both pro Ward and con. But I don't think anyone could take any more different angles on the situation.

Oh, yeah, about last night's game. I know I tipped you off about Nate Washington, the rookie free agent from Tiffin. Maybe that's why Hines Ward decided to end his holdout; he got a look at that kid. He had four receptions for 76 yards and provoked a pass interference penalty inside the 10 that led to a touchdown.

Nate will have a tough time making the team. But, who says Lee Mays has this club made? Rookie Fred Gibson nearly made the catch of the day when he stretched out and almost caught Charlie Batch's toss over the middle. They ruled it a trap, and the Steelers were whistled for holding on the play anyway. Doesn't matter, it was still a great effort by Gibson, who had a bang-up second week of training camp after a so-so first week.



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