Sight of veteran WR walking despite strained MCL inspires teammates
January 20, 2009 5:00 AM
Hines Ward celebrates with fans as he leaves the field Sunday night.
B Ed Bouchette Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Hines Ward attended meetings at the Steelers' practice facility yesterday, and at least one teammate predicted he will play in Super Bowl XLIII.
"I don't think there's any question that 86 will be on the field," tight end Heath Miller said. "I don't even know the extent of his injury, but I saw him walking today, so I'm pretty sure that two weeks from now he'll be playing."
Ward has a slight MCL sprain in his right knee, injured in the first quarter of the Steelers' 23-14 victory against Baltimore for the AFC championship. He returned to catch one pass early in the second quarter, then left the game for good after catching three passes for 55 yards.
The Steelers provided no official update yesterday on the injury. Ward had been scheduled for a MRI in the morning.
Halfback Mewelde Moore, who left the game with an ankle injury, also attended meetings yesterday and walked around without any kind of support or protective boot. Safety Ryan Clark, whose hit late in the game sent Ravens running back Willis McGahee to the hospital with a concussion, had no apparent injury.
McGahee was released from UPMC-Presbyterian, according to a Baltimore Ravens statement.
Tomlin vs. Cowher
Steelers players resented Mike Tomlin for a long time after he replaced Bill Cowher as their coach, wide receiver Nate Washington acknowledged yesterday.
"When he first got here, it was kind of iffy because we were kind of questioning things he was doing compared to coach Cowher's [way]," Washington said.
"But coach Tomlin is a great guy. I think it's taken us awhile to pretty much finally realize that he's never going to put us in a situation we can't handle and he's going to take care of us. A lot of guys respect him for that."
Washington said it took nearly half the 2007 season before players came around to Tomlin's side. He said the main difference was that Tomlin laid down the law while Cowher would often allow his players to have a say in certain matters.
"I think the major thing he did differently from coach Cowher is he instilled in us that it was going to be his way. Coach Cowher kind of had a tendency sometimes to sit back and look at us and he could tell in our face ... he would go off that.
"Coach Tomlin instilled in us we're going to be a disciplined football team, and it's going to go his way and nobody's going to cross him.
"I think guys ... were kind of cursing it at first because we kind of didn't think he was listening to us. But now I think a lot of these guys realize what he has his hands on, and they respect him for it. It's definitely a totally different story now from when he first got here."
Happy for old colleagues, but ...
With five former Steelers coaches on the Arizona Cardinals' staff, including head coach Ken Whisenhunt and his assistant head coach, Russ Grimm, the Super Bowl might look more like Family Feud.
"We're definitely happy for everything they accomplished," Miller said. "I know a lot of guys still remain in close contact with coaches and players who are out there. It will be nice to see them, but there's obviously a lot at stake."
Woodley makes history
LaMarr Woodley became the first NFL linebacker to have more than one sack in three playoff games in a row. He has had two in each this season along with two against Jacksonville as a rookie. Woodley's surge came after he went through the final seven regular-season games making two of his 11.5 sacks, none in the final four.
"I guess during the playoffs it's that time when you want to go out and play your best game," Woodley explained. "You want to win so you don't have to go home."
Motivated Woodley on sack tear
Woodley and other linebackers also received tangible motivational evidence near the end of the season when the Steelers' linebackers went out for their annual dinner. The veterans all wore their Super Bowl XL rings.
"I looked at my finger like I didn't have one but it would be nice to have one," Woodley said. "Guys had all their rings on with the nice suits, pretty much rubbing it in our face."
Woodley said it worked.
"When you see guys with that, you want to get that. You want to be able to put on one of those rings one day."