Ward issues apology to QB Big Ben, team

| Thursday, Dec. 3, 2009

Instead of discussing ways to get open against Oakland Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, Steelers receiver Hines Ward told reporters Wednesday he apologized to his teammates in general — and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in particular.

Attempting to bring closure to comments he made about Roethlisberger during a nationally televised interview on NBC, Ward denied Steelers players chose sides regarding Roethlisberger not playing in Sunday night's game at Baltimore because of a concussion.

"I apologized to the team. I don't want it to be a distraction," Ward told a large group of reporters gathered around his locker.

"We spoke for a while," Ward said referring to a conversation he had with Roethlisberger. "The issue's resolved."

Roethlisberger was not available for comment with local reporters yesterday, but during a conference call with Oakland-area reporters he said, "He (Ward) called me and we talked. We're moving on, and everything is fine."

Ward, who leads the Steelers in receptions (66) and receiving yards (845) and is tied for the team lead with five touchdown catches, said he was upset about not learning until Saturday that Roethlisberger wouldn't play after he practiced most of the week.

He said his comments during the NBC interview about the Steelers' locker room being divided 50-50 about the issue of Roethlisberger not playing were misunderstood.

"Maybe it was the wrong choice of words; have guys played with concussions before• I'm pretty sure a lot of guys in this league have, but everybody is different," Ward said. "It wasn't like I was trying to say the locker room was divided, that half (were) mad at Ben for not playing.

"Ben's a winner. It's not like we had Charlie (Batch, out with a wrist injury) to be our backup. Dennis (Dixon) was unproven. You really don't want to have your third-string quarterback going down to Baltimore, but Dennis shocked the world. He won over a lot of guys in this locker room."

Making his first NFL start, Dixon was 12 of 26 for 145 yards with a touchdown and a interception against the Ravens. He also ran for a 24-yard touchdown in the Steelers' 20-17 overtime loss.

Among the offensive starters, tight end Heath Miller said Ward's comments during the NBC interview had no effect on the players.

"It's a non-issue to me," Miller said. "It's over and done with. We've got to focus on getting a win this weekend (against Oakland at Heinz Field)."

Defensive co-captain James Farrior said Ward's apology was unnecessary because of the respect Ward has in the locker room.

"Everybody in here knows what Hines brings to the table and how bad he wants to win," Farrior said. "This locker room is tight. We're a close-knit group. Everybody is in it to win it."

Safety Ryan Clark believes the Steelers' three-game losing streak has players on edge.

"(Losing) magnifies certain things," Clark said. "If we win that game (against Baltimore), I don't think (any) of this bickering, or having guys say the locker room's divided 50-50, I don't think that happens."

Ward said a win against Oakland will put the Steelers in a better frame of mind.

"We just need to get back on the winning track," Ward said. "Winning solves everything."

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