Last night, we were talking Heinz Field. This morning, we’re talking Hines Ward.
Ward’s chances of making it into football paradise, the Pro Football Hall of Fame, has been hotly debated over the years. As things stand today, his odds of making it into Canton seem bleak. But ask a future Hall of Fame receiver like Larry Fitzgerald if Ward deserves to make it and you’ll get a resounding yes.
Speaking with WPXI in a story posted Sunday night, Fitzgerald said he strongly believes Ward’s next stop should be the Hall of Fame.
“You can’t tell the story of the Pittsburgh Steelers without Hines Ward and the contributions he’s made to the organization. He embodied the toughness of the Mel Blounts and the Joe Greenes and Terry Bradshaws and Franco Harris. You can’t tell the story of the 2000s and not speak of Hines Ward and what he’s done, and I think he deserves to be immortalized forever.”
Ward’s toughness was one of his most memorable qualities. He played receiver like a linebacker and dished out more blows than he took. So much so that the NFL had to create a new rule that eliminated blindside blocks after Ward shattered Bengals LB Keith Rivers’ jaw in 2008.
Ward finished his career, all spent in Pittsburgh, with exactly 1,000 receptions to go along with over 12,000 yards and 85 touchdowns. He owns every significant Steelers’ receiving record, marks that figure to stand for at least another decade. He was named Super Bowl XL’s MVP, catching five passes for 123 yards, none more memorable than his TD grab from Antwaan Randle El.
Despite those accolades, Ward has had a tough road to Canton. He’s gotten as close as being a semifinalist but has yet to make it into finalist contention, let alone getting a knock on his door that he’s getting a golden jacket. Ward faces fierce competition and great receivers have had trouble getting into the Hall. Names like Tim Brown and Art Monk had to wait years before being inducted. Based on how voting has gone in recent years, he’s currently behind the likes of Torry Holt, Andre Johnson, and Reggie Wayne. All three were finalists ahead of Ward last year, and none of those names are part of the 2022 Class.
As receivers from more recent years become eligible, ones with more production as passing attacks began to ramp up, Ward’s path to Canton will be even more difficult. Perhaps his best path will come via the senior committee years from now. A time when voters will better appreciate Ward’s intangibles and what he did besides catch passes. If that’s the route he takes, he won’t get into the Hall for at least another 14 years. Players aren’t eligible for the Senior Committee until their career has been over for at least 25 years.
Still, it’s nice to see Fitzgerald voice some support Ward’s way. Two old-school receivers who had a ton of respect for each other.