Ward focused on one thing

Hines Ward knows that this week it's the Philadelphia Eagles at Heinz Field in the second preseason game. He knows it's still training camp, and that opening day is a few weeks away.

But he can't help it. It's just the way the veteran receiver is. There is just one thing on his mind.

"I focus on one team and that is Baltimore," said Ward. "I don't know what everyone else is thinking, but I am always thinking Baltimore. I watched their preseason game just because they are Baltimore. I watched their new corner. I am worrying about Baltimore."

The Steelers open the regular season on Sept. 11 at Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium, a key match-up to kick-off the AFC North race.

"They are always the competition," said Ward. "Every year it's going to come down to Baltimore and us in the AFC North. When you play Baltimore you get in the weight room a little longer and stay a little extra after practice because you know it's going to be a physical ball game."


Competition at right guard appears to be wide open for the Steelers, with Tony Hills the latest thrown into the mix. Hills saw some snaps against the Redskins at guard and has worked at the position in practice this week as well.

"It's a little change-up for me, but it's an opportunity that I'm going to take advantage of," said Hills. "I walked into the room and saw that I was at guard, and they told me they wanted to see me at guard this week. So, I have to be up to that challenge."

Hills isn't the only one fighting for the spot, as Ramon Foster, Doug Legursky and Chris Scott are all hoping to be the opening day starter.

"I am not in this sport to be a backup," said Legursky. "Everybody is out there fighting to start. I am working as hard as I can and focus on what I can control which is getting the job done when it needs to get done.

"The more positions you can play the more valuable you are as a teammate. As long as you can jump in there when someone goes down or be able to contribute the more valuable you are. I am out there competing for a starting job just like everyone else is at the position."

Foster, who finished last season as the starter at right guard, thinks that the competition is good for everyone.

"When you have competition, guys tend to get better," said Foster. "Coach is doing a lot of stuff to see how guys play in different positions. You have to stay focused on getting better every day and let them make the decision at the end. You have to trust the coach's decision and see what happens at the end.

"We know it's an open job out there and we are just competing for it. We are friends at the end of the day."


The new NFL kickoff rule, with kickoffs now coming from the 35-yard line instead of the 30-yard line, might be popular for teams playing against a Pro Bowl returner, but they aren't a hit with those doing the returning.

Antonio Brown is among those who isn't a fan of the rule, which went into effect with the first preseason game, but understands why they did it.

"I kind of dislike it," said Brown. "I think it's safer for the players that are being blocked. There will be fewer injuries."

Brown is hoping as time goes on that the new rule doesn't totally hamper his shot at returns as he has been given the green light to take the ball out in certain situations.

"If it's about five yards deep and I can get it coming forward, then we want to get it," said Brown. "We don't want to catch anything going back and risk losing yards. You have to anticipate a return. Hopefully we get some kicks that I can catch clean and bring them out. Hopefully we get a shot this week. If we get the opportunity to pass the first wave of people I think we have a shot."

While kickoff returns might be hampered, Brown is hoping to get it done on punt returns.

"That is what I came into camp to do," said Brown. "Coach knew I was physically capable of it. I have a year under my belt, getting more opportunities and they trust me to do things. It adds to my value."

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