It took former Pittsburgh Steelers guard Alan Faneca several attempts to get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and thankfully his sixth time was the charm and he’ll now go in as a member of the 2021 class later this summer. One of Faneca’s former Steelers teammates, wide receiver Hines Ward, hasn’t been as lucky, however, as he’s failed to make to the final cut of 15 in his first five years of eligibility despite being named one of 25 semifinalists every year. With Faneca now safely in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he’s started his push to get Ward in as well.
During a recent interview on “The Eye Test for Two” podcast, Faneca was first asked if he could see Ward one day getting voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Faneca’s answer was predictable.
“My first answer to that is: I better,” said Faneca. “Because he deserves it. He absolutely, 100 percent deserves it.”
Like it or not, Ward has a tough road to conquer in order to ultimately get himself enshrined in Canton, OH as his stats, era he played in and position he played, will make it challenging proposition for him to one day get a Gold Jacket and bust of his likeness. Faneca addressed Ward’s lacking statistical resume during his recent podcast interview.
“He doesn’t have the numbers per se that other receivers are going to have, so I think he kind of falls (into a category) like we talked about offensive guards, offensive linemen,” Faneca said during his interview. “The things that he did … they might not add up, and he might not have the stats, but the impact he had on the game when he went out there and played it (are what made him special).”
Not many more people than Faneca know what kind of player that Ward was when he was on the field. It didn’t take Ward long to become one of the most feared blocking wide receivers in the NFL and that was a trait and reputation he prided himself as having. He effectively set a new standard in Pittsburgh for the Steelers when it came to how wide receivers were expected to play when not thrown the football. Faneca touched on that special aspect of Ward’s play during his interview.
“People tuned in to watch Hines Ward and to see what Hines Ward was doing,” Faneca said. “They came to games to see Hines and see the big hits and the blocks and the big plays and the reverses and the passes. They came to see Hines Ward. He deserves that Gold Jacket, and I just hope that one day he gets it, and he’s not 60, 70 years old when he gets it. Because he deserves to get it and enjoy it.”
Despite being a six-time First-Team All-Pro and nine-time Pro Bowl selection during his long NFL career, Faneca had quite the wait to get into the Hall of Fame. He was arguably one of the best guards in the NFL for numerous years during his playing career. Can the same be said about Ward as a wide receiver? Personally, I don’t think so. Ward was an exceptionally good wide receiver but at no point during his long NFL career do I think he could have been considered one of the best at his position.
In his recent post on this very topic on Full Press Coverage, Clark Judge made a few points, mostly statistical, as to why Ward has yet to get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and why several other former NFL wide receivers might need to get voted in before he’s considered a legitimate candidate to be enshrined.
Currently, there are four former NFL players Anquan Boldin, Reggie Wayne, Andre Johnson, and Steve Smith, not in the Hall of Fame who registered more receptions than Ward did during his career. Several other former NFL wide receivers such as Henry Ellard, Torry Holt, Irving Fryar, Brandon Marshall, and Jimmy Smith all registered more receiving yards than Ward did during his NFL career. While Ward was a four-time Pro Bowl selection during his NFL career, not once was he voted a First-Team All-Pro and only three times was he a Second-Team All-Pro selection. That’s all fairly damning when it comes to his Hall of Fame chances.
Yes, Ward was voted the MVP of Super Bowl XL and that he’ll always be remembered for. He’ll also long be remembered as a vicious blocker that forced the rules to be changed when it came to such. Even so, that still might not be enough to get Ward in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Faneca’s push for Ward is an honorable one. If I were in his shoes, I would do my best to get my former teammate in Canton alongside me as well. That said, one must wonder if Faneca knows deep down inside that Ward has a very tough battle ahead of him when it comes to getting enshrined one day and a battle likely four times tougher than he went through these last six years.
Sure, I hope Ward does get in one day and maybe he will. That noted, I have a feeling that when and if Ward does get elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame that he, Faneca and myself might not be around to see it happen.