Hines Ward has taken on a new role during the teams OTAs this offseason. Instead of being out there running routes with his teammates, Ward is offering advice to the young receivers and in particular mentoring second-year receiver Mike Wallace.
"Coaching for me just comes natural," joked Ward after OTAs on Wednesday. "We're very young at the wide receiver corps. It's not about me. My not being out there gives more reps to our young guys and it's reps they need to have. Me going into my 13th year, I want to help in Mike Wallace's development as a wide receiver. I have to have a counterpart opposite of me, not just one guy but a couple of guys in case somebody goes down with an injury. This is a great opportunity for the younger guys to get more reps.
"It's not about me practicing now. I have run curl routes for 13 years. I am seeing it from a visual side, seeing defenses and stuff like that. I am getting practice mentally, but working with those guys is more important because we do need to add depth at our wide receiver position."
With Santonio Holmes gone, traded to the New York Jets, there is an opening opposite of Ward at receiver. He is working to make sure Wallace is ready for that job.
"Going into his second year there is a lot on his shoulders," said Ward. "I have to make sure his development comes along fast so he can go out there. Mike has shown flashes of great signs last season. It's like night and day being the third wide out and having the third corner. Now you have the starting corner to line up across from you. He has a whole different ball game waiting for him. I have to make sure I can speed his development up. The talent is there. Now he is going to be asked to be a starter and move on from there."
Ward isn't participating mainly because he has been hampered by a hamstring injury. He expects to run some routes during the OTAs, but his focus is on training camp.
"I can run," said Ward. "But why am I in a hurry to come back? I am going to take my time. I don't want to come back and re-aggravate it. You will see me in Latrobe. Right now I am out here rehabbing every day. It's a weekly thing. You will see me out here running routes eventually. Right now my job is to be one of the leaders and get the wide receivers to gain their knowledge so they can help the depth at the position."
And while Ward isn't catching passes from the three quarterbacks who are competing to open the season as the starter while Ben Roethlisberger serves a six-game suspension, he did weigh in on the competition and hopes a starter is named going into training camp.
"I have caught balls from all of the guys," said Ward of Charlie Batch, Dennis Dixon and Byron Leftwich. "We are comfortable with whoever gets named starter. I would go to battle with any of those guys. Whoever is named starter you would like to have that rapport and not keep answering the question of who it will be. It will be less of a distraction knowing going into camp that way you can focus and move on from there.
"I can't say whose job it is. All of them look good. It's hard to determine because we don't even have on pads. It's like touch football. You are playing to get the scheme down. Things change when you put on pads and you have people tugging at you. Regardless of who is out there we are going to go out there fighting and try to help this team win ball games."