Saturday, January 17, 2009

Steelers Interviews ~ Hines Ward

A number of Pittsburgh Steelers were made available to the media on Friday ~ here is what Hines Ward had to say.

What is it about the Ravens that can bring out the best and worst in the Steelers?

I love purple and black, I love the colors. Any time we get a chance to play them you really want to go out and perform well. Just because of the rivalry its self there is a genuine dislike, but there is a lot of respect. They have great players. Each and every year we play Baltimore, it’s one of those games you circle. Cleveland and Pittsburgh is a rivalry itself, but Baltimore and Pittsburgh rivalry is really heated.

Baltimore fans voted you the most hated Steeler, how does that make you feel?

I guess that’s a big honor. I don’t know why Baltimore dislikes me so much. I love the crab cakes there; I love the view in Baltimore. I don’t know, I’m a likable guy. I don’t know what there is not to like about me. I smile all the time. I give 110% every time I step on the field. I could care less if they dislike me. As long as my teammates and the city of Pittsburgh know what I give each and every Sunday that I step on that field, that’s all that really matters to me.

Do the Ravens pay too much attention to you instead of doing their jobs?

Every now and then you hear the guys (Ravens) say you’re not going to break my jaw. You run around and they look at you. I get a big smile on my face when I hear guys talking about that because they are more worried about me than trying to stop Willie Parker or Heath Miller and those guys. I take pride in trying to get under their skin because I guess they are trying to knock the smile off of my face. To have that impact on the field, they were trying to fight me, literally rather than trying to stop our offense run plays. I just want to do anything to win games.

Have both offenses gotten lost the week because of both defenses?

You have to respect that. To be one and two in the league defensively, you have to respect that aspect of it. Offensively, you look at the playoffs and it really comes down to turnovers. Whatever offense executes their game plan and not turn the ball over usually has a great chance to win ball games. That’s been the case with Baltimore; they are very conscientious of not turning the ball over and letting their defense go out there and forcing their opponents to make mistakes. For us the same way, there isn’t much we have to do offensively because we have a great defense. Not too many teams in this league can take an 80 or 90-yard drive down the field and score touchdowns against our defense and vice versa. This game really comes down to execution of the game plan and not turning the ball over. When you get down to the red zone you have to put up touchdowns and not field goals. That’s usually the winner of the game.

How do you stay hungry when you’ve made it to this point so many times?

I’m always out there to play with a chip on my shoulder. I was one of those guys that wasn’t supposed to play in this league very long. This is my fourth AFC Championship game and unfortunately I am 0-2 at home. That is something in the past that’s all you can remember is the guys celebrating on your home field. That’s something you have to live with, throughout the whole offseason. There is nothing you can really do about that. There would be nothing worse than seeing Baltimore’s players celebrating on our field. For me, I want to make sure that doesn’t happen at all. That’s all the motivation I need to go out there and give it all I’ve got

How do you socialize at Pro Bowls with Ravens players if they don’t like you so much?

Ed Reed and Chris McAllister, I’ve been to Pro Bowls with those guys and they say, ‘Thank God you’re on our side, because we’re not trying to have that out here in Hawaii.’ They know, because when I go across the middle, those guys are going to just play hard. If you hate me for playing hard, I’m sorry. This is a physical sport as it is. When I cross the middle, those guys are itching at the bit to get a good shot on me. But that’s my motto; I’m going to hit you before you hot me. I just have a different approach about it. Each and every time I step on the field, I don’t have the intent to hurt anyone, but at the same time if I have a shot, I’m going to take it.

What’s it like playing for a coach as young as Mike Tomlin?

He understands his players. Last year he had to come in and really come in and set the laws down. A lot of guys were in coach Cower ways. He was very strict on his rules, if he started an 8:00 meeting, he wants you there at 7:58. He doesn’t want you there after 8:00. If you were (late) you were going to get put in his so called “news board” and you would get fined. He had a year under his belt to let guys know this is his team and this is how he wants things run around here. Going into his second year, he understands what players need to be pushed, what players need to take time off to be fresh. He’s done a great job of mixing that in with veteran guys. Veteran guys, we don’t practice on Wednesday. We’ve been in this league long enough and we know we’re not going to win ball games on Wednesday. He wants guys to be as fresh as possible on Sunday. He did a great job of doing that for veteran guys. He’s a true players coach. He’s played the game and he understands. By playing wide receiver not practicing on Wednesday is not going to affect the way I play on Sunday. He’s done a lot for me because I feel a lot fresher on Sundays and been able to go out to do it week in and week out.

Do you want snow and cold Sunday?

It’s not like I want it, but this is Pittsburgh you never know what you’re going to get. For all I know it might turn around and be 60 degrees on Sunday. Whatever the conditions are, we’re the type of team that will be ready for it. Playing in Heinz Field with the field conditions and the weather, we’ve played in every field condition there possibly is. We’re used to it. We worked inside today, but we opened up the garage, because it’s still going to be cold. We tried to get used to it and get acclimated to the weather. Rain, sleet or snow, we’re going to show up and see if we can go to the Super Bowl.”

Have you thought about your legacy and how another Super Bowl would enhance that?

A Super Bowl would be great. When you look at the previous teams here in this organization, the teams in the 70s winning four Super Bowls, when you win Super Bowls you leave your legacy as a winner. That’s what a lot of people like in this league, winners. For me, when I leave this game, all I really want from people is to say Hines is one hell of a football player. I don’t compare myself to anybody, to Randy Moss, (Larry) Fitzgerald, none of those guys. I play the game I want to play. My legacy, I want people to say he played the game the way it’s supposed to be played. If they do that, I am happy. I did my job.

Ravens wide receiver Derrick Mason said, ‘They are going to realize what’s coming quickly, the Ravens are coming, so prepare yourself.’ What do you make of that? Are you prepared?

We are very prepared. That doesn’t scare anybody. That doesn’t scare me. Whatever it takes to motivate yourself to go out. Talk is cheap to me. We line up Sunday, we’re going to go out and play, and the better team is going to win. For what Derrick said, I don’t know if I am supposed to be scared or laugh at that. I really can’t comment on that.

Does any of that bulletin board material even matter?

No. if you need bulletin board material to motivate you in this game you don’t even need to show up. Playing a team for the third time in our division, knowing it’s going to be a physical ball game, there is nothing more Ray Lewis or any of those guys can say. We’ve heard it all. I’ve heard it for 11 years now. You still have to go out there and line up and play. All of the bounty talk was just talk. It was something to write about, stories to create. It was something for the media to talk about. You still have to line up and play football. Two great defenses, it’s going to come down to whatever team executes. Hopefully it will be us on the receiving end to go to the Super Bowl

Would the worst nightmare for both of these teams be watching the other team celebrate getting to go to the Super Bowl?

A couple of guys joked around that the winner of this game, right here, it doesn’t matter what you do in the series after this you are always going to remember this. If we win this game, Baltimore can beat us 10 straight times but they will remember this game and visa-versa. That’s what is at stake. Regardless of what you did in the regular season, the winner of this game is going to stick with you for a very, very long time.

How much easier was this week for preparing with the familiarity of this team?

It really wasn’t that hard. You look back at the past two games, Baltimore gives a lot of different schemes to try and confuse the offensive line, the offense, so they can get a guy come wide open and sack the quarterback. All week the preparation is just trying to give all of the different looks so everybody can see the different styles of blitzes that they run and hopefully we can get them picked up and protected so we can make plays down the field. If we can do that and have all 11 guys on the same page I think we will be fine. Baltimore gives so many different looks that they like to confuse you. That’s why you see one guy coming wide open and getting a sack. For us it’s about getting all 11 guys on one page and really just going out there and executing our plays.

Labels: ,