By Mike Prisuta
CINCINNATI _ In the end there was so much to talk about, but it wasn't what Hines Ward would have preferred to discuss.
Ward's four catches for 82 yards last Sunday afternoon at Paul Brown Stadium vaulted him past 10,000 career receiving yards and made him the first wide receiver in Steelers' history to achieve that five-figure plateau.
But the numbers most significant to Ward following the Steelers' 23-20 loss to the Bengals were one and two, as in 1-2.
"The (defending) Super Bowl champions starting 1-2," Ward said. "It's not what we envisioned.
"Right now the individual goals aren't important to me."
Ward made his historic catch in the second quarter on third-and-2 from the Steelers' 45-yard line on the first play following the two-minute warning.
Fittingly, it gained 14 yards and produced a first down.
Ward would catch one more pass in the second half, but that 21-yard, third-quarter reception paled in significance to a series of misplays over the final two quarters that contributed to the game ultimately getting away.
Ward addressed those, and their ramifications in varying degrees of detail.
"We have a miscommunication (between quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wide receiver Santonio Holmes), we throw a pick for a touchdown," Ward said. "We throw a bomb down in the end zone and (wide receiver) Limas (Sweed) drops a touchdown. Defensively, we gotta get off the field.
"The key word for the last two games is 'finish.' We score touchdowns, make plays; it's not even a ballgame. I don't even think we punted in the first half. We only came out of it with 13 points. We gotta find ways to put up seven (points) rather than threes (field goals). That's how you finish teams off."
Ward entered the game 60 yards shy of 10,000 and as the franchise's all-time leader in receiving yards (9,940), receptions (814) and receiving touchdowns (72).
Ward's 21 career 100-yard receiving games are second in Steelers' history to Hall-of-Famer John Stallworth's 25.
Not that such numbers were of any consequence to Ward after the Steelers' record had dipped below .500 for the first time since they fell to 1-2 in 2006 while on the way to opening the season 1-3 during what became a 2-6 first half.
"We score touchdowns in the first half, that's not even a ballgame," Ward said. "It's 24-0, 24-3, whatever."
And 10,000 career receiving yards is more than a statistical afterthought.
Mike Prisuta is the sports director for WDVE-FM, the flagship station on the Steelers Radio Network.