Steelers Notebook: Ward starts at WR; Sanders sees action
Troy Polamalu made the tackle on Kansas City's Steve Maneri on the Chiefs' first series of the game, then left with an apparent head injury.
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One game after he failed to start and played sparingly against the Cincinnati Bengals, veteran Hines Ward started the game as the lone wide receiver and played in several formations in the opening series against the Chiefs. He caught two passes for 5 yards.
Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who missed two games after having surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee, returned against the Chiefs and played mostly as the third receiver instead of Jerricho Cotchery, who replaced Ward against the Bengals.
Ward played mostly in two-wide receiver sets and as the fourth receiver in multiple-receiver formations.
Todd Haley grew up in Pittsburgh as the son of former Steelers player and longtime personnel director Dick Haley. As such, he had a front-row seat to their dynasty of the 1970s and later became a ballboy for them.
Haley, now the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, talked to Bob Costas on NBC-TV's Football Night in America about what it was like growing up a Steelers fan and what it was like when he was offensive coordinator of the Arizona Cardinals, who lost to the Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII.
Costas: You've got a history with the Pittsburgh Steelers that goes back almost to your very first memories as a child, right?
Haley: Absolutely ... I truly bled black and gold in my daily life for many, many years all the way through college. How I felt that week depended upon the Steelers and how they played.
Costas: Being around that as a kid would have been great had it been any one of the 32 teams. But this was one of the greatest teams of all time.
Haley: To be there at the start of what is still going to this day -- how they built, how they are going to do things -- is still intact almost exactly the same way today, and obviously it works. But to be there as a young kid, I didn't look any different at Jack Lambert and Terry Bradshaw than I did anybody else. I said that I wish now I had collected a few autographs.
Haley: My father has always said this to me, which I do kind of tend to believe, 'By growing up and being able to be around the teams you were able to be around and the players, you know what great is.' And knowing what great is as a characteristic, or the ability to know what great is, is important to have. A lot of guys haven't been around great to know what it is.
Costas (on Haley as offensive coordinator for the Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII): Do you have any flashbacks?
Haley: I have many flashbacks to that Super Bowl. I'm very close with Kurt (Warner) and Larry (Fitzgerald) and there's not many weeks that go by that that doesn't come up in some way. We were leading in the Super Bowl with just a few minutes left. So I have a lot of flashbacks, especially when we play the Steelers.
The Chiefs didn't run the opening kickoff back for a touchdown. That was an improvement over the previous time the Steelers played in Kansas City.
In 2009, Jamaal Charles scored on a 97-yard return, a big play in the Chiefs' 27-24 overtime win. It marked the eighth consecutive game that the Steelers allowed a return -- fumble, interception or kickoff -- for a touchdown. It also was a franchise-worst fourth time that they allowed a kickoff return for a score. Special teams coach Bob Ligashesky was fired after the season. Not coincidentally, the team missed the playoffs.
"I've tried to forget all of that," said Steelers safety Ryan Mundy, a big part of their special teams, then and now.
The Steelers have allowed just one kickoff return for a touchdown since that Kansas City game -- a 97-yard return by the New York Jets' Brad Smith last season.
"People don't realize how important special teams are," said Steelers special teams captain Arnaz Battle, who sat out the game Sunday night with a hamstring injury. "They make and break games."
Ben Roethlisberger wore a glove on his throwing hand to help protect his fractured right thumb, though the injury didn't appear to bother him at all.
Right off the bat, Roethlisberger completed five of six passes for 76 yards on the opening drive that ended when Mewelde Moore's fumble was recovered by Chiefs cornerback Javier Aerenas in the end zone. Several of the passes had plenty of zip
After getting just four takeaways in the first nine games, the Steelers had four in two quarters after getting a fumble recovery and interception in the first quarter against the Chiefs.
Defensive end Brett Keisel recovered a fumble at the Chiefs 38 and cornerback Ike Taylor had an interception and 29-yard return to the Chiefs 7 in the first quarter -- though all the Steelers managed from both takeaways was a field goal.
The Steelers had two interceptions in the fourth quarter against the Bengals on Nov. 13, by cornerback William Gay and linebacker Lawrence Timmons.
Steelers: LB LaMarr Woodley, LB Stevenson Sylvester, QB DennisDixon, OT Jamon Meredithy, DE Al Woods, NT Chris Hoke, WR Arnaz Battle.
Chiefs: QB Kyle Orton, DB Donald Washington, LB Demorric Williams, G Ryan Lilja, TE Jake O'Connell, DL Brandon Bair, DL Jerrell Powe.
First Published November 28, 2011 12:00 am