By Teresa Varley
Wide receiver Hines Ward watched the play unfold in the Steelers indoor practice facility during OTA's and then walked over to first-year running back Stefan Logan and shared a little bit of advice. A few plays later, Ward did the same thing with another young teammate. And if you watch the Steelers practice long enough each day, you will see it repeated over and over again.
Ward hasn't been taking part in the physical aspect of OTA's, but he is definitely involved in the mental side, benefitting himself and some of the younger players on the roster.
"That is why I am here," said a smiling Ward when asked if he felt like a coach. "I am the veteran guy on the team."
Not just a veteran, but one at a position where the depth lacks experience with the black and gold. Behind Ward and Santonio Holmes are a handful of receivers, including Limas Sweed and Mike Wallace, two high draft picks the last two years as well as veteran Shaun McDonald, who signed at the start of mini-camp.
"We are thin at the wide receiver depth," said Ward. "Mike Wallace, Sweed those guys are going to have to help the team and contribute. If myself or Santonio goes down, one of those guys becomes the starter. You have to make sure you understand and help them so they understand. They are next in line. Over the course of 16 games anything can happen.
"My job as a leader is to make sure those guys are prepared as possible, especially before training camp. Once training camp comes we don't have the time to wait on everybody. We are preparing to start the season and make our quest for another great year. The stuff we are telling you now we shouldn't have to tell you again."
And that is why the number one thing he preaches in the wide receivers meeting room is write things down. He doesn't want his teammates to forget something, but also feels that writing it is one more way for the information to get imbedded in their memory.
"I try to relate to those guys what I did," said Ward. "I am a firm believer that whatever you write down it soaks into your brain. If you just look at a picture you will probably forget it because you see so many pictures and they run in together. In the receivers room I make the guys write the plays down and draw them up in their heads. At least you wrote it down and it's somewhere in your brain. I told them day one don't ever come in here without a pen and a notebook. Write everything down that you hear."
It must be working so far because he likes what he has seen out of Sweed, who is showing more confidence and he knows that there is plenty of potential in Wallace.
"Limas is making plays," said Ward. "He has a better grasp of the playbook. Mike is still raw. He is still learning different coverages. Each day he is starting to see the game. That is an encouraging sign when each week they get better and better."
While Ward sees progress and potential, neither player has been guaranteed the back-up job to the starting wide receiver tandem, nor have them been guaranteed a roster spot. But he likes what he has seen from both and McDonald as well.
"Each day you see those guys get better and better and make plays," said Ward. "Shaun is an experienced guy. Every time his number is called he is making plays consistently. It helps having a veteran guy like him. He has been in it before. It's cool in the coaching sessions, but when you put the pads on and sweat and the battles you face in training camp takes a toll on you mentally and the veterans seem to shine a little more in training camp."