The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing to enjoy quite a weekend with major representation in Canton. As part of both the 2020 and 2021 classes, as well as the Centennial Slate members from last year, they are preparing to induct five of their own into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
That includes former guard Alan Faneca as part of the class of 2021, a member of the 2000s All-Decade team who has waited long enough for his opportunity to get his gold jacket. And he believes his presenter will one day join him. That would be the Steelers’ all-time leading receiver, Hines Ward.
“He will get into Canton. It’s just a matter of time, I feel”, he told reporters earlier today during his media availability session for Hall of Fame weekend. “He is a Hall of Famer. It’s just a matter of when he gets in. The reason I picked Hines was, he and I had so many conversations, and so many discussions over the times, just really bonded over those moments”.
Ward recorded 1,000 receptions for the Steelers over the course of his 14-year career, from 1998 through 2011, compiling 12,083 yards along the way with 85 touchdowns. He is a two-time Super Bowl champion, a Super Bowl MVP, and a four-time Pro Bowler.
He was drafted in the third round in 1998, the year the Steelers also used their first-round draft pick on Faneca, who himself would go on to be a nine-time Pro Bowler and six-time first-team All-Pro, winning the 2005 Super Bowl together.
“We grew up together. We came in together out of college together, and grew up in the Steelers organization together, bringing the team along to where we were”, Faneca said of Ward about why he chose his teammate as his presenter for enshrinement. “We just had a really good bond, and that’s kind of where it ended up. I just wanted somebody that represented me and the same mentality. Hines and I have a lot of the same characteristics and mentalities that got us where we are. We’re very similar, and that’s how we became who we are as players. That meant a lot to me in picking him”.
As far as Ward is concerned, it’s worth reminding that, though his numbers globally may not look remarkable in comparison to what many young wide receivers are doing today, he played on a run-heavy team even during an era of the game that was more focused on the run, or at least a balanced offense.
He was the team’s clear leading receiver for much of his career, yet the only topped 150 targets twice. Antonio Brown got that in five consecutive seasons. Brown finished his nine-year Steelers career with 837 receptions for 11,207 yards and 74 touchdowns.
Personally speaking, I don’t think Ward ever makes it into the Hall of Fame, at least not as a modern candidate. The Hall is about numbers for the most part. He ranks 26th all-time in receiving yards, 14th in receptions, and tied for 16th in receiving touchdowns. But time will tell; perhaps Faneca will be right, and his advocacy won’t hurt.