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Steelers' Ward backs away from comments

| Monday, Nov. 30, 2009

BALTIMORE — Hines Ward shrugged off the notion that he started a controversy when he said in an interview taped Saturday that he wanted quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to play against the Ravens — and that 50 percent of the players in the Steelers locker room felt the same way.

The interview aired on NBC's "Football Night in America," prior to the station's telecast of the Steelers' 20-17 overtime loss to the Ravens.

Ward said he simply picked the wrong words when he used "50-50 toss up" to describe how the Steelers felt about Roethlisberger playing in Baltimore after sustaining a concussion the previous week in Kansas City.

"Me calling him out or whatever, that wasn't my intention," the veteran wide receiver said.

Roethlisberger practiced all last week and said Thursday that he planned to play against the Ravens, whose game-winning field goal was set up by a Dennis Dixon interception.

Roethlisberger, however, started suffering from exercise-induced headaches at the end of the week, coach Mike Tomlin said.

Dr. Joseph Maroon, the Steelers' neurosurgeon and a leading authority on concussions, recommended to Tomlin on Saturday that Roethlisberger not play against the Ravens.

Roethlisberger suited up as the team's No. 3 quarterback, meaning he would have only been eligible to play had Dixon and backup Tyler Palko gotten hurt.

Had that happened, Tomlin said, Roethlisberger would have only gone into the game to hand off to one of the Steelers' running backs.

As for what Ward said in the interview with NBC, Tomlin dismissed that it would cause some sort of rift between the Steelers' offensive co-captains.

"I'm not worried about a problem in the locker room," Tomlin said after the Steelers lost three games in a row for the first time during his tenure. "In that instance maybe Hines was uninformed. I didn't give him the detailed explanation that went into the decision-making terms of what Dr. Maroon suggested."

Ward said his comments to NBC were a product of frustration more than anything else.

"We needed him out there; we wanted him out there," Ward said of Roethlisberger. "This is the biggest game of the year. We lose and we kind of dug ourselves in a hole. I just wish we would have had all of our weapons out there."

Said Roethlisberger, "I want to go out there and play, but the doctors told me it wasn't a good decision. The coaches told me the same thing, so I wasn't playing."

Ward said he doesn't think there will be a need to talk with Roethlisberger about the comments he made.

"I don't know what I have to say," Ward said. "I'm not going to get into a war or words with my own quarterback. It was just frustrating because we didn't find out that he wasn't starting until (last) Saturday. Finding out your starting quarterback's not playing until Saturday, it was shocking."

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