Steelers Notebook: Ward says he's ready for Carolina

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It appears wide receiver Hines Ward will make good on his word and return to the starting lineup Sunday in Charlotte, N.C.

The Steelers upgraded Ward and free safety Ryan Clark to probable for the game against the Carolina Panthers after they went through a full practice yesterday.

Ward and Clark first were listed Monday as questionable by coach Bill Cowher. Ward missed the past two games after knee surgery. Clark missed the game Thursday against Cleveland with a groin injury.

Both should start Sunday in Carolina.

"I'm going," Ward said. "I didn't do all this rehab for nothing."

That might not be the case for strong safety Troy Polamalu or wide receiver Cedrick Wilson. Each remained doubtful and did not practice yesterday. Polamalu has missed the past two games with a MCL knee sprain; Tyrone Carter replaced him as the starter. Wilson missed the game Thursday with a high ankle sprain, and rookie Santonio Holmes replaced him.

Fox not happy about rules

Carolina coach John Fox does not like the rules that are being applied to protect quarterbacks in the NFL.

"There has been a lot of emphasis put in that area," Fox said yesterday. "I am not sure that this protection is really protecting them as much as it is maybe not protecting the integrity of the game."

Delhomme misses practice

The Panthers list quarterback Jake Delhomme as one of seven players on their injury list, all questionable. Delhomme missed the loss Sunday to the New York Giants with a right thumb injury. Chris Weinke made his first start in four years and ran his record to 1-16 as a starter for Carolina.

Delhomme did not practice yesterday.

"He's still listed day-to-day," Weinke said. "Talking to him, it seems to be getting better."

Weinke threw 61 passes against the Giants.

"That was tough," he said. "I haven't thrown that many balls in four years."

Hear no evil

The Steelers made a surprising admission after they lost in Indianapolis, 26-7, last season when the noisy dome crowd gave their offense so many problems -- they did not use a silent count as many teams do in such places.

They switched to it for their next road game in Minnesota's dome and then used it again for their return trip to Indianapolis in the playoffs.

It has been all silent count all the time on the road this year, according to offensive tackle Max Starks.

"Now we use it routinely because it makes it easier, instead of trying to sit there and keying. After the Indy game, we didn't want to have anything like that ever happen again. If it gets semi-loud, we go straight to the silent count."

Quick hits

The 529 yards in total offense Thursday against Cleveland were the most posted by the Steelers since they hung 556 on Cincinnati Nov. 19, 1995. It was the fifth time they went over 450 yards in a game, three more than they did that last season. ... Ward needs just 4 yards rushing to become the career leader among Steelers receivers. Louis Lipps holds the lead with 388. Ward has not had a carry in the regular season since Dec. 4, 2005, although he did run once in the AFC title game for 4 yards and once in the Super Bowl for another 18 . . . Ward also needs 184 receiving yards to become the second Steeler to reach 8,000 yards. John Stallworth had 8,723 yards.

Gene J. Puskar, Associated Press
Hines Ward doesn't plan on being in a sweatshirt when the Steelers take on the Carolina Panthers Sunday.
Click photo for larger image.


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