PITTSBURGH -- Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward extended his previous apology to Ben Roethlisberger to all of his teammates Wednesday, saying he didn't mean to create a distraction by questioning why a concussion kept the quarterback from playing against the Baltimore Ravens.
Ward called Roethlisberger on Monday to say he was sorry for wondering why the quarterback was held out of the Steelers' 20-17 overtime loss to the Ravens the previous night. Ward wasn't aware that a team doctor had advised Roethlisberger not to play because of post-concussion headaches that followed each of the Steelers' three practices last week.
Roethlisberger hasn't reported any headaches since Friday. He practiced Wednesday in preparation for Sunday's game against the Oakland Raiders.
Ward is disappointed that he spoke out of frustration in an NBC interview taped Saturday night, not long after learning Roethlisberger wouldn't play in an important game for the defending Super Bowl champions.
"In hindsight, we're never going to jeopardize a man's health issues to play a game," Ward said Wednesday. "A lot of people forget, Ben came from a motorcycle incident (in 2006) and still had a lot of head trauma, so we don't want to ... push him to play a game. I wasn't trying to really not be concerned about his head injury. We were just frustrated we didn't have our starting quarterback."
Roethlisberger talked with Ward at length on Monday night, and the two apparently put the incident behind them.
"You know what, he called me, we talked, we're moving on and everything is fine," Roethlisberger said.
"I apologized to the team for having to even answer questions about this," Ward said. "... That was never my intention, I didn't want this to be a distraction. I should have just took the time and took the emotions out of it and just gave the politically correct answer."
Steelers linebacker James Farrior said that Ward, who's a team captain, didn't need to apologize.
"I think it's over with, and it's not going to be a distraction for this team," Farrior said. "We're just going to move forward. We wanted to have all the people out there who could give us the best chance to win, and Hines was just upset."
The Steelers (6-5) have lost three in a row to fall two games behind the Cincinnati Bengals (8-3) in the AFC North race and jeopardize their chances of returning to the playoffs for the seventh time in the last nine seasons.
"No, no, no," Ward said when asked if the team's unity was shaken. "I just think we need to get that taste of winning back. It's frustrating when you lose to Kansas City, you come back and you know it's going to be a tough game in Baltimore, and then not having your quarterback ... In the course of losing three games in a row, we just need to get back on a winning track. Winning solves everything."
Note: Former Steelers special-teams captain Anthony Madison re-signed with the team Wednesday, one day after being cut by the Indianapolis Colts. The Steelers have struggled in kick coverage all season and allowed a league-high four kickoff-return touchdowns in a five-game span. The Steelers released CB Corey Ivy, who signed with the team last week, to make roster room for Madison.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press