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Steelers WR Ward can't wait to play Ravens

| Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2011

The Steelers break training camp Thursday, and if Hines Ward had his way they would leave St. Vincent College and head straight for Baltimore.

"Preseason's good, but my mind is focusing on one team and that's Baltimore," the veteran wide receiver said.

The Steelers open the regular season against the Ravens on Sept. 11. Ward is so excited about the renewal of arguably the best rivalry in the NFL that he watched the Ravens in their preseason opener last Thursday.

Ward said he hasn't paid attention to additions the Ravens have made, such as wide receiver Lee Evans, running back Ricky Williams and All-Pro fullback Vonta Leach.

Ward did notice that the Ravens parted ways with two of their most experienced pass catchers when they released wide receiver Derrick Mason and tight end Todd Heap.

"When you lose a Mason or a Heap, that does a lot to a locker room," Ward said. "Those guys were emotional leaders out there. All of the pressure comes on (quarterback Joe) Flacco probably.

"Some organizations feel like they have to go young. I think we do a great job of mixing veteran guys with a nucleus of young guys that are waiting in the wings.

» Antonio Brown has been the star of camp, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has noticed the progress the second-year wide receiver has made since 2010.

"I really think he's got a chance to be something really special for us," Roethlisberger said. "It just seems like he can run all day; he's a little Energizer bunny. But mentally I think he's really come a long way as well, understanding the defenses and coverage and what he's supposed to be doing on certain plays."

» Brown is slated to serve as the Steelers' primary kickoff and punt returner this season. The Steelers used Antwaan Randle El as a situational punt returner last season, and special teams coordinator Al Everest said veteran wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery may be considered for handling punts deep inside Steelers' territory. But Everest said Brown will get the first shot at returning all punts.

"I trust him. He's got great hands," Everest said. "The thing he has to continue to learn as a young guy is making decisions down inside the 10- and 5-yard line."

Inside the ropes

» Ike Taylor is scheduled to have his broken left thumb surgically repaired Tuesday, but that didn't prevent him from practicing Monday.

Fitted with a cast covered with a plastic bag because of the rain, Taylor went through a full practice.

"They've got to make me not practice for me not to be out there," Taylor said. "Nobody plays 100 percent anyway. You have to find a way to play with pain."

» For the fifth consecutive practice, the Steelers moved to the artificial turf field because of persistent rain. A thunderstorm pushed practice back about 30 minutes, and the team had to deal with steady rain for the first half of the session.

"It was good work for us," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "We are thankful that we have this (field) here at our disposal, and obviously we have needed this the past several days."

» Undrafted rookie Wisconsin running back John Clay left practice early Monday in what turned out to be a strange scene. During the final period of practice, Clay left the field and was heading back to the locker room on top of the hill at St. Vincent College when a trainer raced to intercept him. After a few minutes of talking nearly 200 yards away from practice field — and while players were turning back to try to get a glimpse — Clay walked back to the field slowly just in time for end of practice. Clay did run sprints with the running backs after practice.

» For the second straight day, rookie first-round pick Cameron Heyward got into a scuffle with an offensive lineman. On Sunday it was with tackle Jonathan Scott. Monday, it was with guard Ramon Foster, who pulled Heyward's helmet off his head before the two were separated.

» Rookie undrafted free agent DE Miguel Chavis has officially moved to tight end. He changed his number from 65 to 46.

» Linebacker Mortty Ivy continued to impress. He picked off QB Byron Leftwich and returned it for a touchdown. Later, he batted away a pass from tight end Weslye Saunders during a red-zone drill.

» Chris Kemoeatu took part in his first-team portion of practice yesterday. He started at left guard with Doug Legursky at right guard. Ramon Foster replaced Kemoeatu and Tony Hills replaced Legursky after a few snaps.

» Not practicing: DE Brett Keisel, LB LaMarr Woodley, DE Aaron Smith, WR Emmanuel Sanders, CB Cortez Allen, CB Crezdon Butler and WR Limas Sweed. TE Eugene Bright remains on the physically unable to perform list.

Newcomer watch


Position: Wide receiver

Measurables: 5-foot-11, 195-pounds

College: Wake Forest, 4th year, free agent

Competition: Moore spent time with Detroit, Carolina and Indianapolis after being drafted in the fifth round in 2008. The Steelers signed Moore on Aug. 10 after releasing rooking Adam Mimms. Moore played in 12 games two years ago for the Panthers and two more for the Colts last year. A spot on the practice squad would be Moore's only chance at a roster spot.

Camp moment: Being in camp for less than a week, Moore has spent the majority of his time trying to learning the playbook. Moore made a couple of nice catches during Monday's practice as his reps continue to increase. He is expected to play in Thursday's preseason game against the Eagles.

Quotable: "I am starting to understand things when I hear something. I know what it means now. Not everything, but it is not as foreign as it was before." — Kenneth Moore

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