Ward tops 1,000-yard mark in win
A meaningless game for the Steelers, as far as the playoffs were concerned, turned out to be a memorable one for veteran wide receiver Hines Ward. He surpassed 1,000 yards receiving for the fifth time in his career and for the first time since 2004.
Ward, who caught six passes for 70 yards in the Steelers' 31-0 win over the Browns on Sunday, became the first wide receiver in team history to make 800 career receptions.
"He is a heck of a player," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "He tries to trick himself into being underrated, and he is not. We appreciate him."
Said Ward: "I've caught (passes) from all different types. It would be a great trivia question to figure out who threw Hines Ward his 800th catch."
That would be Dennis Dixon. The rookie quarterback made his NFL debut yesterday and completed his only pass attempt for 3 yards.
• The Steelers put more emphasis on the fullback and went into the game with the mindset that they were going to run the ball. They ran out of the I-formation against the Browns more than they had in any game this season.
Willie Parker, who has said he prefers to run with a fullback in front of him, rushed for 116 yards and a touchdown.
"I love the I-formation," Parker said after collecting his fourth 100-yard rushing game of the season. "I love the plays we were calling. I knew we were going to pound the ball, so you know I definitely love that."
Said center Justin Hartwig, "We haven't lined up in that package a lot this year. As an offensive line, we just like to be able to run the ball when we need to."
• The Steelers held outside linebacker James Harrison out of the game as a precaution. Harrison, who set a Steelers single-season record with 16 sacks, didn't practice last week because of a hip pointer. Free safety Ryan Clark (shoulder) also didn't play because of an injury. Joining them on the inactive list were cornerback Fernando Bryant, outside linebacker Bruce Davis, offensive tackles Tony Hills and Jason Capizzi and defensive tackle Scott Paxson. Dixon served as the third quarterback. Lawrence Timmons started at right outside linebacker for Harrison, and Tyrone Carter took Clark's place in the lineup. Carter left the game in the first quarter with a head injury but returned in the second half. He had two interceptions, a career high, and returned one for a touchdown.
• The victory gave the Steelers a season sweep of their AFC North rivals. The Steelers finished 6-0 against conference foes for the first time since 2002.
• The Steelers are off today and will practice Tuesday-Thursday before taking a three-day weekend.
• The Browns finished the season without an offensive touchdown in their final six games.
• Wide receiver Santonio Holmes (55 receptions) and tight end Heath Miller (48 receptions) each established career highs for catches in a season.
1 — Passer rating for Browns quarterback Bruce Gradkowski yesterday.
8 — First downs the Browns had yesterday.