Sunday was a glorious day for denizens of Steeler Nation. First of all, it was the return of NFL football. Regardless of the outcome of the Pittsburgh Steelers' opening-week game against the Atlanta Falcons, it was beautiful to wake up Sunday morning knowing that in a few short hours I would be watching the black and gold play their first regular season game of the year.
Though the Steelers played far from flawless football, particularly on offense, they made just enough plays to beat the Falcons 15-9 in overtime. Throw style points out the window in this league, particularly when you're playing with your backup quarterback. Just find a way to win.
Dick LeBeau's defense played very solidly in all areas. The Steelers are always tough against the run, and Sunday was no exception. But it was the improved play of the secondary that was most encouraging. Troy Polamalu made another highlight-reel interception in the second half, Bryant McFadden recorded 11 tackles, Ike Taylor was great, and William Gay looked more comfortable as a nickelback. Let's see if they can stay healthy.
How about fan favorite Hines Ward? Well, he was kept out of the end zone, but he led the team in receptions (six) and receiving yards (108). As he's done countless times in his career, he contributed to momentum-changing drives with his first-down grabs. It marked the 26th time that Ward finished with 100-plus receiving yards, increasing his lead over Hall of Famers John Stallworth and Lynn Swann.
It just so happens that he also cleared two impressive statistical benchmarks on Sunday. Ward entered the game with 895 career receptions and 10,947 receiving yards. By day's end, Ward had become just the ninth player in league history to reach 900 catches, and he added his name to the slightly longer but still exclusive list of players with 11,000 career receiving yards (24).
Ward's legacy is already cemented in the hearts and minds of Steelers' fans. But as he remains productive into his thirties, he's beginning to rise the statistical charts and bolster his Hall of Fame candidacy. Here's where Ward currently stands in all-time receiving yards and receptions. As you'll see, the company he keeps is well-represented in Canton.