Sprained knee to keep Steelers WR Ward out vs. Cardinals

Wide receiver Hines Ward, who has missed only three games during his NFL career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, will be sidelined for Sunday's contest against the Arizona Cardinals with a sprained right knee.

The 10th-year veteran sustained the injury, originally diagnosed as a bruised knee, in the third quarter of last week's victory over the San Francisco 49ers. A subsequent MRI exam revealed no structural damage, but Ward was unable to practice all week.

Cedrick Wilson and Nate Washington are expected to split time at Ward's spot in Sunday's game. Washington has three receptions for 60 yards this season. Wilson, a onetime starter, has one catch for 12 yards.

The other starting wide receiver remains second-year veteran Santonio Holmes.

It is not yet known when Ward, 31, will return to practice. In three games this season, Ward has nine catches for 108 yards and one touchdown.

A four-time Pro Bowl performer and the most valuable player in Pittsburgh's victory in Super Bowl XL two years ago, Ward is key to the Pittsburgh offense, not just as its most accomplished receiver, but also because he is one of the best downfield blocking wide receivers in the league.

The former University of Georgia star missed one game in 2005 with a hamstring injury and two in 2006 with a sprained knee.

In 144 games, Ward has 657 catches for 8,113 yards and 59 touchdowns. He is the leading pass-catcher in franchise history.

Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com