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Hines Ward Conference Call Transcript

Steelers' Hines Ward speaks to the national media via conference call about their upcoming game against the Patriots on Sunday in Pittsburgh.

Q: Would you talk a little bit about, as a receiver, going over the middle and what kind of mentality, special mentality it takes to play that role on a team?

HW:You have to have a crazy mentality to go across the middle, but it's a part of football. (Laughs). You know, with me it's just I expect to get hit, so you might as well catch the ball. Any time I go across the middle, I'm expecting for someone to hit me, but like I said, you might as well catch the ball. It feels a lot better if you catch it than missing it.

Q: When you take a big shot from a DB or a safety, how is it that you get up with a smile on your face?

HW:I have no idea. Fans around here call me Psycho Ward because they think I'm a little crazy, a few screws loose upstairs.

Q: Do you think that irritates the other team?

HW:It plays into it mentally, because I think around the league, I'm known as being a physical guy who is going to continue to play, but it's just a part of my game.

Q: How far do you think Ben Roethlisberger has come along with you and the other Pittsburgh wide receivers to get into the AFC Championship Game this weekend?

HW:We are starting to gel. We are starting to get that chemistry where we are able to communicate out on the field. We come to the sideline and speak after every series and learn what the defense is trying to do. We are all on the same page, and the timing of our routes, just working with one another now. Ben doesn't have just one go to guy. He has a rapport with everybody, and I think that's something that I think develops over the season.

Q: You're one of the best and most respected players in the NFL. Do you desire to have the same popularity like Randy Moss or Terrell Owens?

HW:No, that's out of my control. For me, I take pride in just being a complete wide receiver and my recognition amongst my peers, that's all I really can ask for. When I have opposing coaches come up to me and tell me that I'm one hell of a ballplayer and they would love to have me on their team, I take that more than having all types of commercials and stuff like that. I get a kick out of that, just having a guy like Coach Parcells coming up to me, a legendary coach, and shaking my hand and telling me I'm one hell of a football player.

Q: It's been nine years since Bill Cowher last took the Pittsburgh Steelers to the Super Bowl. What are your thoughts on coach Cowher, and what has he said to the team about the AFC Championship and being one game away from the Super Bowl?

HW:He's just wanted us to keep our same routine, don't really get out of our elements and worrying about next week and stuff like that. Let's just continue doing what we've been doing and taking the one-game-at-a-time approach. And that's why we were able to have a streak like we had, winning 14, 15 games straight, because we were able to take it one game at a time and not really overlook anyone. That's just been our whole demeanor for the year, and it's not going to change this week. We are going to come out and prepare. And going against the Patriots, we know they have a solid team, so we are going to have to bring our 'A' game, no question. Each player out there, special teams, offense, defense, we have to bring our 'A' games and make sure we can increase our chances to win this ballgame.

Q: This game is in Pittsburgh and the other game is in Philadelphia and there is the possibility of a Pennsylvania Super Bowl; since you've been in Pittsburgh, how have you learned to appreciate the passion that these people on both sides of the state have for football?

HW:I'm pretty sure that all of the teams left in the playoffs now, all of the fans have a unique passion about their team. I've only played in one place my whole career, and everywhere we go, you see Steeler fans all over. I think we went to Dallas, and half of the stadium in Dallas was Pittsburgh Steelers fans. It's great having two teams in the State of Pennsylvania still in the playoff hunt and have the chance, the opportunity, to make it to the Super Bowl.

Q: You are almost a national team like the Packers.

HW:Yeah, with the rich tradition that the Steelers have, wherever we go, we always bring a large crowd and a large fan base. And that's the one thing that's great about playing with the Steelers because wherever you go, you kind of feel like you're playing at home.

Q: Plaxico is obviously a pretty big guy and you are a big physical receiving tandem, how important do you think being physical and tough is against New England's defensive backs, given the fact they jam pretty well?

HW:It's going to be tough for us just to go out there and maintain our level. We can't sit there -- I'm pretty sure Coach Belichick is going to have something, because Plax is obviously our deep threat and you have to be able to contain him. But for us, we've got a lot of threats out on the field, not only just Plax and myself, but you add in a guy like Antwaan Randle El, and we are just as deadly as the three from Indianapolis. But our offense is totally different. We run the ball first and we pass second. But when we do pass, we like to take full advantage of the opportunities we do get when we do pass the ball, and I think Plax made some huge plays in the first game that we played against the Patriots.

Q: How would you explain or characterize their secondary, and what do you think about the fact they have overcome the loss of both starting cornerbacks?

HW:They have done a tremendous job all year. Losing a guy like Law, and then Poole going down; but I think Harrison, he keeps those guys together. He's putting them in the right position. And Belichick, he's not going to go out there and put them in a situation where they can get exposed as far as giving up big plays. They like to keep everything in front of him and make their team really be patient as far as let me see if you can drive the ball down the field 60,70 yards and see if you can beat us that way, rather than just giving up a cheap home run ball or something. For us, it's all about just being patient and taking one play at a time and making the plays when we have to.

Q: What is it like to be the top receiver on the Pittsburgh Steelers team, knowing that you have to step up your performance this weekend in this AFC Championship Game to get to the Super Bowl?

HW:For me, I don't really put all the pressure on me. There's other guys. But when my number is called, I have to go out there and make a play to keep the drives going and just keep doing whatever it takes to try to win this ballgame. I like that kind of pressure, just being the guy that they can depend on to make a play. But for me, it's not about just me. I think for us, we have a lot of playmakers and each given week, there's someone always stepping up that's big. So if I don't -- for whatever reason, I don't get many opportunities, more than the next guy. I have all the confidence in the world that the next guy will go out there and make plays.

Q: Talk about the pressure that's on Ben Roethlisberger this week.

HW:It's really not pressure. For him, it's just learning on the job. He's still a rookie, he's going to make rookie mistakes, but having a game like us playing the Jets, I think it's going to help him out tremendously as far as learning sometimes you don't have to go in and make a big play. It's okay to get sacked or it's okay to pick up two or three yards; you don't have to try to make a big play every time. It's been a big learning experience, and it's great just having him out there, because he has so much poise. I mean, to sit there and throw two interceptions and come back in overtime and still drive us down the field and lead us to the game-winning field goal, that speaks volumes about the kid. I mean, he showed that determination all year. So I have all of the confidence in the world that he's going to come out and have an excellent game.

Q: How much confidence do you think this team has beating the New England Patriots during the regular season, and just the playing experience overall going into the AFC Championship Game this weekend?

HW:We have confidence. It's not because we beat them the first time; that doesn't really matter. They didn't have a couple of guys in the game. For us, it's really about having confidence in ourselves. We have been underdogs. We don't really care about that. We don't feel like underdogs. We just want to go out -- we are 15 -- 16-1 right now, and we didn't deviate from anything or get too much of a big head. We just prepare each week, and take one game at a time and that's the approach that we've taken.

Q: If the Pittsburgh Steelers do or do not get by the Patriots this week, and of course you want to win the game and make it to the Super Bowl, but does everyone still feel this is one of most accomplished teams the Steelers have had up to this point?

HW:That's hard to say, there's so many great teams throughout the history of this organization. This year, for whatever reason, it's been a special year for us. Going through a season just losing one game, what better way than to ride all the way out and go all the way to the Super Bowl.

Q: Do you think anyone on this team expected the team to be 15-1 at the beginning of the season?

HW:No, I don't think we expected it. Our goal wasn't to win every game. We felt like, you know, we had a great team. It's just a matter of being consistent week-in and week-out, and I think we have proven that over the course of the season.

Q: Over the course of the year, watching the running game that you guys have, how much does that wear down a defense from start to finish of a game? I know the Jets, the last few times you played them, by the end of the game they were kind of gasping; has that been the case and has it been easier on your receivers?

HW:Yeah, that's been the case. We like to think that our receivers and our running backs, we complement one another. Teams are trying to play cover-two to take both me and Plax out of the game, but our running game is able to run the ball and vice versa. They put the eight men in the box and then we are able to make plays in the passing game. Our offensive line and our whole running attack has been the whole catalyst of our team all year. We are not going to deviate from that. We are still going to go out and try to run the ball and establish the line of scrimmage and control the clock to keep their offense off the field. But having guys like Jerome Bettis and Duce Staley giving us that one-two punch, that is always going to wear on teams by the fourth quarter.

Q: How much do you expect them to try to put the ball in Roethlisberger's hands; in other words, make the rookie step up and put him in situations that he doesn't want to be in?

HW:I don't know, you'd have to ask Coach Belichick I guess. For us, it's just we need to go out and execute our game plan to the fullest. I mean, just try to have a perfect game as possible as we can. And we know Coach Belichick, he's going to have something up for us that we are going to have to adjust on the run and go out there and make plays.

Q: What do you remember about Mike Vrabel when he was there, and how good is that front seven in New England right now?

HW:The front seven is solid. Mike Vrabel, I like Mike. He started out as a special teams guy with me and he was always making plays on special teams. He got the opportunity to go to New England and start. Just watching him on film, he's always around the ball making plays. We know he's a guy that has to be -- you have to mark his name down and say, look, this is the guy we need to contain him a little bit. So I'm looking forward to seeing him. He's a great competitor and great ballplayer, and hopefully we can slow him down a little bit.

Q: What do you think about the way that New England really kept Indy from throwing the ball downfield by playing deep? Do you think you guys are better able to exploit a team that tries to do that with the running game?

HW:Well, like I said, our strength is our run offense, and the Colts' strength is their passing game. It's kind of hard because Belichick is going to try to take away your strengths, and of course he took away the Colts strength as far as throwing it down the field and whatnot. We know we are going to go out there and we are going to see eight men in the box probably, but we are still going to go out ourselves and try to run the ball just to keep Tom off the field. We don't need our offense to be off the field. For us it's about controlling the clock, executing our game plan and just keep making plays.

Q: As far as wide receivers go, would you rate prototype size or prototype heart higher?

HW:No, I take heart over anything. Size, I really don't really care about. I mean, some of the best receivers in the game have been small receivers or medium-size receivers. You look at Steve Largent, one of the best in the game, average speed, average size, but he's one of the better guys in the League. I know guys like the 4-3 -- the 6'5, the 6'4; that's great, I wish I was that tall. That doesn't mean if he's not that size, he can't be a productive wide receiver in the NFL.

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