The Pittsburgh Steelers endured their fare share of struggles during Sunday afternoon's 15-9 overtime victory over the Atlanta Falcons. Pittsburgh struggled on third down, converting on just 4-of-14 opportunities (28.5%), and Dennis Dixon made several poor reads, as well as several inaccurate throws after making the proper read.
There were bright spots on offense though, including the play of Dennis Dixon in spots. Rashard Mendenhall, who iced the game with his 50-yard TD on Pittsburgh's first offensive play in OT, finished with 120 hard-fought yards on 22 carries. It looks like he's ready to be 'the guy' on offense this season, at least until Ben Roethlisberger returns from suspension, and perhaps even after depending on the strategic approach Bruce Arians takes in the middle and later parts of the season.
Amidst all the dynamic variables that will continue to define the Steelers' offense in '10, it looks like there's one reliable constant that can be counted on for yet another year: the play of future Hall of Fame wide receiver Hines Ward.
Here were Ward's numbers for the afternoon:
6 receptions, 108 yards, 18 YPC, Long 25
With those 108 receiving yards, Ward became the 24th player in NFL history to surpass 11,000 career receiving yards! It was also Ward's 26 100-plus-yard receiving game.
However, it wasn't the only milestone he set on the afternoon. With his six catches, Ward becomes the 12th player in league history with more than 900 career receptions. He now stands at 901. Remarkable.
As he's done so many times in his career, Ward made big plays when his team needed them most. Dixon targeted Ward 7 times on the day, connecting with him on all but one. Impressive catch rate and a good sign for the next few games. Four of his six receptions were good enough for first down yardage. One of the two that didn't came on 3rd and 19 early in the 3rd quarter with the Steelers needing yardage to get into FG range at the Atlanta 35. Ward then had consecutive big plays in the 4th quarter with the score still knotted at 6-6. 24 yards on the first, followed by a 25 yarder and all of a sudden Pittsbugh was in FG range having started at their own 17 yard line four plays earlier.
Anyway, a very nice performance by him on a day when his quarterback needed somebody to make a few plays. He did just that because that's what he does. Make plays, whoop ass, and smile.
Here's where Ward stands amongst his peers after today:
Congratulations to No. 86 for the tremendous milestones, and more importantly for accomplishing them while leading the Steelers to yet another Week 1 victory!