CLEVELAND - The Steelers tried their best to help veteran receiver Hines Ward reach an impressive milestone, and they finally did it.
With 13 minutes, 53 seconds left in the game Sunday of the Steelers' 13-9 victory over the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium, Ward caught his 1,000th career pass.
"It's definitely a huge accomplishment,'' Ward said. "All week I focused on getting a win because we still had a chance at winning the division and getting a first-round bye. I think winning meant more to me than anything. But in the back of my mind I was thinking how great it would be to get 1,000 catches.''
Ward, 35, became the eighth player in NFL history to catch 1,000 balls, and his milestone catch, the fifth of Sunday's game, went for minus-3 yards on a shovel pass on the Steelers' first offensive play of the fourth quarter.
"It was the happiest negative-yard catch I have ever had,'' Ward said. "I was nervous going into the game. I really wanted to get it done in the regular season.''
Ward's production has slipped this season, and he most likely will have to take a pay cut to stay with the team next year. If he ends up retiring, he at least has another milestone to add to his Hall of Fame credentials.
The Steelers' Hines Ward became the eighth player in NFL history Sunday to record 1,000 career pass receptions:
Pass catcher YearsTotal
1. Jerry Rice1985-20041,549
2. Tony Gonzalez1997-20111,149
3. Marvin Harrison1996-20081,102
4. Cris Carter1987-20021,101
5. Tim Brown1988-20041,094
6. Terrell Owens1996-20101,078
7. Isaac Bruce1994-20091,024
8. Hines Ward1998-20111,000
9. Randy Moss1998-2010954
10. Andre Reed1985-2000951
Steelers as a wild card
How the Steelers have fared when they made the playoffs as a wild-card team:
1973 Lost to Oakland, 33-14
1982 Lost to San Diego, 31-28
1989 Defeated Houston, 26-23, lost in divisional round
1993 Lost to Kansas City, 27-24
2005 Defeated Cincinnati, 31-17, eventually won Super Bowl XL
"We tip our cap to Hines,'' Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "Of course we're excited and happy for him and proud of him. What a tremendous accomplishment. We're talking about a small few.''
Will Clark play?
The Steelers will play in Denver for their first playoff game next weekend, and safety Ryan Clark's status for that game is already questionable even though he is not injured.
Clark was hospitalized in Denver in 2007 for a rare sickle cell trait that nearly caused him to die due to the high altitude. The Steelers held him out of a game in Denver in 2009 even though he had medical clearance to play.
"We'll put some heads together, and when I'm talking about heads I'm talking about medical experts, not myself,'' Tomlin said. "We'll see what the medical experts have to say, and then we'll go from there.''
Clark wasn't ready to make any predictions Sunday.
"We'll talk,'' he said. "This is about the team, not about me.''
Weather or not
The press box announcer said before the game that the temperature was 49 degrees, but it felt more like 29. The winds were ripping through the stadium at 24 miles per hour and were swirling.
Rain fell during pregame warm-ups, but the lake-effect snow that was in the forecast held off until 9 minutes remained in the game. Even then, the snow just blew through the stadium and didn't accumulate on the field.
The Steelers' opponents for the 2012 regular season became unofficially finalized on Sunday.
The Steelers will face all of the teams from the NFC East and the AFC West, the second-place team in the AFC East and AFC South, as well as their AFC North Division foes.
The home schedule will look like this: Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Washington, San Diego, Kansas City and the New York Jets.
The road schedule will include games at Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, New York Giants, Oakland, Denver and Tennessee.
In addition, the Steelers could end up with one of their home games being played in London. The Kansas City game would be a good possibility for the London game.
An owner of a Kia dealership in Medina, Ohio, about 30 miles south of Cleveland, ran a promotion recently that would have given away free Kias if the Browns would have shut out the Steelers on Sunday.
Everyone who bought a Kia at Bill Doraty's dealership from Dec. 26 to New Year's Eve would not have had to pay for the car if the Steelers would have been held scoreless. It was reported that between 45-75 people were eligible for the promotion.
The Kia owners had reason for hope until the final play of the first half when the Steelers' Shaun Suisham kicked a 19-yard field goal.
The last time the Browns shut out the Steelers was 1989.
Steelers who missed the game due to injury were linebacker LaMarr Woodley (hamstring), offensive lineman Doug Legursky (shoulder), running back Mewelde Moore (knee) and linebacker Chris Carter (hamstring). Other Steelers inactive for the game were receiver Arnaz Battle, defensive end Al Woods and tackle Jamon Meredith.
Jason Worilds started in place of Woodley. It was Worilds' seventh start in the last eight games.
Chris Kemoeatu, who was out of the starting lineup the last five games, regained his starting spot at left guard over Trai Essex. Kemoeatu was replaced by Essex for half of a series in the first quarter but then played the rest of the game.
The Browns were without quarterback Colt McCoy (head), receiver Jordan Norwood (head) and offensive tackle Tony Pashos (ankle).