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“Ward Watch” ends as Hines reaches 1,000 career receptions

CLEVELAND — It was hardly the type of play — a shovel pass from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger that lost three yards — that will define Hines Ward’s career. But the Steelers’ Hall of Fame-bound receiver will happily take it.

“It didn’t matter, the minus-three yards,” Ward said after his 1,000th career catch, just the eighth player in NFL history to reach the milestone. “It was the happiest minus catch that I ever had.”

A 35-year-old, 14-year veteran, Ward did it Sunday in the fourth quarter of the Steelers’ 13-9 win at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Roethlisberger had no qualms about the modest nature of the catch, or who his target was going to be.

“It’s still such an awesome honor and I feel privileged to play with the guy,” he said.

“It’s definitely a huge accomplishment,” Ward said of his feat. “All week I was just trying to say, ‘Man, I just want to win.’ Because we still have a chance (to win) the AFC North and get that bye week. I think winning meant more to me than anything, but in the back of my mind I thought, “Man, it would be great to get a thousand catches.’”

Because Baltimore beat Cincinnati, the Steelers failed to win their division and get some welcome time off. Now they will travel to Denver for a wild-card game this weekend.

Ward’s performance, five catches for 24 yards, mirrored the type of offense-deficient game it was for both teams. His longest catch went for all of nine yards.

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