Jerry Green: Hines Ward is Steelers’ latest big catch


Jerry Green

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.

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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.”

Special talent

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)

Tim Twentyman: Top cornerbacks will be gone before Lions pick, Kiper says


Tim Twentyman: NFL Insider

Mel Kiper Jr., who has been ESPN’s point man on the NFL draft since 1984, has some bad news for Lions fans hoping to snag a cornerback in the first round.

Kiper said the Lions’ top four needs are cornerback, outside linebacker, offensive tackle and defensive end. But he thinks there’s little chance the Lions get a corner deserving of the No. 13 pick.

LSU’s Patrick Peterson and Nebraska’s Prince Amukamara are considered the top two corners in the draft. After Peterson and Amukamara, Kiper said the rest of the corners are more deserving of late-first round to second-round consideration.

Peterson is considered a top-five pick and Kiper doesn’t think there’s any way the Lions have a chance at Amukamara unless they move up.

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“I just can’t see (Amukamara) getting past Dallas (at No. 9),” he said. “Surprises happen every draft, and you never say never, but right now, I have a tough time getting him down to Dallas. I thought he’d fit in good with a couple teams earlier; San Francisco (No. 7) could look corner. I do think at No. 13 that would be a stretch to try and get him.”

Kiper still thinks the Lions will take UCLA outside linebacker Akeem Ayers, which would certainly fill a need.

But Kiper also alluded to a possible wild-card selection.

“I have (offensive tackle) Nate Soder out of Colorado going one pick ahead of the Lions at No. 12,” Kiper said. “He’s had a nice week down at Mobile so far (Senior Bowl), which you knew he would.

“I think he has the most upside out of any lineman in the draft, be it offensive lineman or defensive lineman. He’s a former tight end. He’s a chiseled kid. He’s going to keep getting better and better because of limited experience on the offensive line.

“The history of tight end-turned-offensive tackles in the NFL over the last 35 years is pretty good. I think he would be an interesting guy. He’s the only one right now of the offensive tackles that I think has a chance to really jump up. I think Soder is going to be the hot guy because of the upside and the fact that he’s that diamond in the rough; he’s going to keep getting better and better.”

If the Lions pass on Ayers for Soder, or Amukamara drops, Kiper said there are good 4-3 outside linebackers available in the second, third and fourth rounds that will fit the Lions’ needs.

He named Bruce Carter (North Carolina), Lawrence Wilson (Connecticut), Mason Foster (Washington) and Ross Homan (Ohio State) as possibilities for the Lions later in the draft.

By the numbers

$83,000 — Payout for each player on the winning team in Super Bowl XVL

$42,000 — Payout for each player on the losing team

$15,000 — Payout for each player on the winning team in Super Bowl I (1967)

$7,500 — Payout for each player on the losing team

Air attack

Still don’t think the NFL is a passing league? A record 22 quarterbacks passed for 3,000 yards or more this season. The previous high was 19 in 2001 and 2009.

Philip Rivers, Chargers — 4,710

Peyton Manning, Colts — 4,700

Drew Brees, Saints — 4,620

Matt Schaub, Texans — 4,370

Eli Manning, Giants — 4,002

Carson Palmer, Bengals — 3,970

Aaron Rodgers, Packers — 3,922

Tom Brady, Patriots — 3,900

Matt Ryan, Falcons — 3,705

Kyle Orton, Broncos — 3,653

Joe Flacco, Ravens — 3,622

Sam Bradford, Rams — 3,512

Josh Freeman, Buccaneers — 3,451

Donovan McNabb, Redskins — 3,377

Chad Henne, Dolphins — 3,301

Mark Sanchez, Jets — 3,291

Jay Cutler, Bears — 3,274

Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers — 3,200

Matt Cassel, Chiefs — 3,116

Michael Vick, Eagles — 3,018

Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks — 3,001

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills — 3,000

He said it

“The entire senior leadership team stands with me in its commitment to resolving the CBA issues with the players union. While several other executives have also volunteered to make additional reductions to their compensation, I have asked them not to take that step at this time as we continue our negotiating efforts.”

— NFL commisioner Roger Goodell, who said he’ll cut his salary to $1 if there is a work stoppage after the collective bargaining agreement expires in March. Goodell makes $10 million per year.

ttwentyman@detnews.com