Hines Ward was officially listed as questionable going into last Sunday's game against the Patriots.
Maybe if the Steelers were playing a team with a better secondary, his status would have been upgraded.
Ward told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he essentially didn't suit up because the Steelers didn't think he was needed to "exploit the Patriots' secondary" -- something they easily did without him.
"I probably could have forced it and played but we have some great wideouts," Ward said. "I wasn't really concerned. And against the Patriots, we felt we could exploit their secondary. That wasn't the same secondary that we played against a year ago . . . without having James Sanders, and Brandon Merriweather wasn't back there and they let Leigh Bodden go. We kind of liked our matchups. So there was no need for me to try to force it and go."
Very well, Hines. The Patriots surely made you and the Steelers pay for taking them for granted.
Oh, wait, they didn't.
What's interesting is how opposing wide receivers like Ward remember former members of the Pats secondary deemed by the Pats as not good enough for them anymore. Judging by Ward's comments, though, it appears that perhaps Bill Belichick, Nick Caserio, and the rest of the front office underrated their former players. Maybe they were in better hands last year than they are now with the likes of Antwaun Molden, Sergio Brown, and Phillip Adams on the field.
Who woulda' thought?
Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry discuss the aftermath of Antonio Brown’s Facebook Live video. Curran interview Matt Light ahead of the AFC Championship. They dissect the press conferences of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, and look at how to beat the Steelers.
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2:29 Antonio Brown’s Facebook Live aftermath
13:14 Stopping Le’Veon Bell
27:16 heywassyonumba? with Patrick Chung and Kyle Van Noy
32:30 Injury report updates for AFC Championship
36:51 Brady and Belichick’s press conferences
44:50 Matt Light interview
FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick knows that how you play, not where, is what matters most.
That's why when he was asked on Wednesday about the advantage the Patriots will have by playing at Gillette Stadium in the AFC title game, he wasn't willing to go all-in on how a comfortable environment will positively impact his team.
"I don’t know," he said. "Go ask Dallas and Kansas City."
The Patriots apparently thought enough of home-field advantage that they played their starters throughout their regular-season finale win in Miami, exposing their best players to potential injury in order to maintain their positive momentum while simultaneously ensuring a better road to the Super Bowl.
The Patriots fans in attendance on Sunday will help when the Patriots take on the Steelers, Belichick acknowledged. But there's much more to it than that.
"Yeah, of course," he said, "but the game is won by the players on the field. That’s who wins football games – the players. And they’ll decide it Sunday night."
And if you needed any further proof, just ask the Cowboys and Chiefs how helpful their home crowds were in the Divisional Round.