Hines Ward Addresses Santonio Trade, Roethlisberger Drama and Public Caution

At the same time Art Rooney II spoke to the media about the disciplinary action that awaits Ben Roethlisberger following the NFL Draft, I spoke by phone with Hines Ward, only one of two offensive starters who have been with the Steelers throughout the entirety of Ben Roethlisberger's pro career. Appearing at a promotion for Gatorade's mobile locker room at a Pittsburgh high school, Ward later announced that he is discouraged but not disappointed by the recent spate of personal issues that have dogged Steelers players, at the same time announcing that he would retire if the Steelers won the Super Bowl this coming season. ↵

↵In his discussion with us, Hines displayed measured and cautious tones in discussing the Santonio Holmes trade, the readiness of young receiver Mike Wallace to assume a starting role and whether the Rooneys have indeed sent a message to players with their actions. ↵

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↵The Sporting Blog: What was your immediate reaction to the Santonio Holmes trade? Were you given word about it before it happened? Did you think it was fair? ↵

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↵Hines Ward: I was a little shocked about it. It's an unfortunate thing, being so hands-on with him football-wise throughout his career and starting to see him shine. It's not my say in the matter, but I was sad to see him go. I did what I could with him on the field, but a man has to take advantage of the opportunities he is given. Hopefully Santonio will use this as motivation and make the most of it. I'll still be rooting for him. ↵

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↵TSB: What's your view on Mike Wallace taking over a starting role in Santonio's place? Do you see him as ready after one year? ↵

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↵HW: His role is gonna change dramatically, but if he works hard enough, I can see him being up to it. He was great last year with the chances that were given to him. Me and Santonio worked the outside and that left him alone to do his own thing going deep. He's gonna be called on to do more than that this year, and that's part of his development. I do know you can't teach speed, but there's always going to be things a rookie has to work on going into his second year and he's no different. ↵

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↵TSB: Rooney has just announced that disciplinary action is coming after the draft for Roethlisberger. Do you think it would have been fair to trade Santonio without also penalizing Ben in some way? ↵

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↵HW: I'm not in a position to say what's fair and what's not. What I know is both guys were big performers for us the past few years that helped us win Super Bowls. We won two Super Bowls with Ben and he's been a leader for us. It would be nice if both of them would be returning for next year, but that's not the reality of the situation and we have to deal with what has happened. I'll accept Ben with open arms when he comes back to the team. I know Ben is ready to accept whatever disciplinary action that comes for him and cope with it. I have a lot of respect for him and I know he'll be able to bounce back. ↵

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↵TSB: Have you spoken with other members of the team since the Santonio trade? Many in the media have said the trade and this impending discipline for Ben is meant as a message to the team to stay on the straight and narrow. Would you say that message has gotten through? ↵

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↵HW: Absolutely it has. The message lets the other players know they're not going to tolerate these kinds of actions off the field. Those expectations come with the territory, but it has to be reinforced with what has gone on lately. As professional athletes, we're in a fishbowl and you have to be aware of that and exercise extreme caution while in public. Look at what happened with Jerry Jones. He's out drinking with his boys, someone takes a video of him and next thing you know it's on ESPN. You have to be careful of what you do at all times. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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