We’re still many months away from the Pro Football Hall of Fame 2017 class being announced, but a pair of Pittsburgh Steelers have taken the first step to earning their gold jackets.
Joey Porter and Hines Ward have been included on the initial list of Hall of Fame candidates, the Hall tweeted out a short time ago. They join Brian Dawkins, Derrick Mason, Chad Johnson, Donovan McNabb, Bob Sanders, Jason Taylor, and LaDainian Tomlinson as first year nominees.
— Best Attraction for Sports Fans (@ProFootballHOF) September 15, 2016
Players are eligible for the Hall five years after their last NFL season.
Porter was a fierce leader of the Steelers, who backed up his mouth with his play. He has 98 career sacks, 60 of those in Pittsburgh, reaching 10.5 twice as a Steeler – in 2000 and 2005.
In his 13 year NFL career, he made 171 starts, registering 665 tackles, the aforementioned 98 sacks, intercepting 12 passes, and forcing 25 fumbles. In 2008, at age 31, he recorded 17.5 sacks for the Miami Dolphins. He now serves as the Steelers’ outside linebackers coach.
In 217 career games with Pittsburgh, Ward caught exactly 1000 passes for 12083 yards and 85 touchdowns. He is the current leader in all three categories by considerable margins. Known just as much for his blocking and his smile as his receiving, Ward was a fan favorite in Pittsburgh.
Statistically, his greatest season came in 2002 where he had 112 receptions for 1329 yards and 12 touchdowns. He made four straight Pro Bowls from 2001-2004. He won two Super Bowls and was named MVP of Super Bowl 40. In all, he caught 88 passes for nearly 1200 yards in the playoffs.
In reality, both are probably longshots to get in on their first try, especially Ward. But they’re in the mix and it’ll be fun to see how long they survive the cutdown.