Former News staff writer Jerry Green is one of only four sportswriters to cover every Super Bowl. Read Green’s columns all week from Super Bowl XLV in The Detroit News.
Fort Worth, Texas — The Pittsburgh quarterback dropped back, then fired a cannon shot. Way downfield, the receiver tooled into overdrive, leaped and twisted in flight. The football struck his fingertips and stuck. Without losing a step the receiver stepped onward for a touchdown.
Lynn Swann from Terry Bradshaw, 64 yards — Super Bowl X in Miami’s Orange Bowl.
Again, four years later, the Pittsburgh quarterback dropped back, then fired another cannon shot. Downfield, the receiver ran from the slot, with two defenders attached, hooked, pirouetted and escaped in a gallop downfield.
John Stallworth from Bradshaw, 73 yards — Super Bowl XIV in Pasadena’s Rose Bowl.
Again, now 26 years later, the Pittsburgh quarterback dropped back and fired another shot, this one looping. Along the sideline the receiver caught the football in flight, and kept going for the touchdown.
Hines Ward from Ben Roethlisberger, 43 yards — Super Bowl XL in Detroit’s Ford Field.
Three imperishable Super Bowl flashbacks. Three plays vivid in my memory.
Swann, Stallworth and Ward. They are joined.
“What do they mean to me?” Hines Ward told me with a laugh and a huge smile. “Man, they epitomize what the Steelers wide receivers are.
“It’s a big honor to have my name mentioned with them. Those guys won four Super Bowls. I have the opportunity to win three.”
This was at another media session, in the Steelers’ practice facility here on the campus of Texas Christian University Wednesday morning five days before their Super Bowl XLV matchup with the Packers.
Hines Ward faced a jungle of video cameras and he was prepared for the event.
His own man
Two caps — a Pirates cap and then a Super Bowl XLV cap — for a bit of variety for the photos. They replaced the black Stetson cowboy hat he wore Monday for a press session.
Already Ward has surpassed Swann and Stallworth — both in the Pro Football Hall of Fame — in career catches.
“I don’t try to emulate anybody,” he told the media. “I don’t try to be like any other receiver. When I’m long gone away from this game, when they mention Hines Ward, I just want them to say, ‘He’s a helluva football player.’
“That’s really what I want to be, just a great football player. I don’t get caught up with who catches the ball or whatever. If my opportunity is there, I want to come up big for my teammates . . .
“We’re just a bunch of resilient guys who stood up together — band of brothers, really. We came together and here we are.
“Our third Super Bowl in six years.”
The Pittsburgh Steelers — in the same manner as Green Bay — are ingrained in pro football history and tradition.
“Every time we get to walk into our offices we see six Lombardi trophies,” Ward said. “Expectations are very high in Pittsburgh.
“I remember winning the second Super Bowl and the question the next day was if we were going to win it again next year. Every year we go into training camp, that’s all we preach: the Super Bowl.
“Some teams talk about the Super Bowl. But they’re just pretenders. Every year we have a legitimate chance of making it to the playoffs and we all know that once you make the playoffs and make a run, you get the opportunity to go to the Super Bowl.”
The names change. Ward’s fellow receivers change. This season, Mike Wallace actually caught one pass more than Ward. Heath Miller, the tight end, is one of Roethlisberger’s favorite targets. Rookie receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown, out of Central Michigan, have been contributors in the postseason.
“There’s only one ball for everybody,” Ward said at TCU.
Sunday, on many plays, it will be Ward against Charles Woodson, who played and starred at Michigan and is one of just two Packers with experience in a Super Bowl. It will be a featured matchup between a receiver and a defender, both bound for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. A Super Bowl XVL subplot.
“I was a big fan of Charles in college,” said Ward, who played at Georgia. “We both made the All-America team. He can play corner, safety, nickel, linebacker, strong safety. He can pick the ball off, make you fumble. He’s a great tackler.
“He’s definitely a special player.”
So is Hines Ward.
Super Bowl XLV
Who: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Green Bay Packers
Kickoff: 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas
TV/radio: Fox (Channel 2 in Detroit)/WXYT
Records: Steelers 14-4; Packers 13-6 Line: Packers by 2 1/2
Super Bowl histories: Eighth game for Steelers (6-1 record); fifth game for Packers (3-1)