Hines Ward, in his magnificent career, has played in 3 Superbowls (so far), 4 Pro-Bowls and has over 12,000 career receiving yards. He has now reached the 1,000 catch milestone– only the 8th player of all time to do so.
Congratulations are in order. In addition to his tough play, excellent blocking and his leadership, Hines has the statistics to rank among the best receivers to ever play the game. He should be a future Hall of Famer (more on that later), and he will certainly go down as one of the best Steelers ever. It has been thrilling to watch his career unfold.
It would be nice to see the national media give Hines a little more recognition for this significant accomplishment. I still remember the NFL stopping the game to pretty much throw a parade when Tim Brown got his 1,000th catch. Yes, they actually carted his family onto the field while Al Michaels and John Madden took turns stroking him. I didn’t expect the Browns to do anything to commemorate Ward’s moment on their home turf, but it would be nice if some national media outlets at least mentioned it. I listened to most of Mike & Mike’s ESPN radio show this morning (the only ESPN programming I can tolerate) and didn’t hear them talk about it. Pro Football Talk continued their anti-Steeler bias by not even posting about it. They just made a snide remark in another post pointing out that his 1,000th catch was a three yard loss. (I’m pretty sure Mike Florio has never gotten over the fact that his mom was a Steelers groupie in the seventies and he was the team’s discarded bastard child.) A visit to NFL.com did not yield any reference to Ward’s accomplishment either. Just a headline story on Tim Tebow (no joke) and the only Steelers news is Mendenhall’s injury.
I don’t understand the lack of coverage. He just did something that only 7 other people in the world have ever done. And as far as his Hall of Fame credentials go– let’s break it down below.
He’s in his fourteenth season (all with the Steelers). He has 1,000 catches for 12,083 yards and 86 total touchdowns (one rushing). As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, he is a four-time pro-bowler (first team all-pro in 2002). He is a two-time Superbowl champion and was the MVP of Superbowl 40 (I’ve refused to use roman numerals ever since the collapse of their empire ). In addition to all of these stats, there are a lot of intangibles that define Ward’s career. He is an outstanding blocker whose tough play warranted a rule change because he BROKE A LINEBACKER’S JAW. He played most of his career on a run-oriented team and played only half of his career with Ben Roethlisberger (while other star receivers like Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Jerry Rice, Marvin Harrison, Michael Irvin and Andre Reed had the luxury of playing their entire careers with great quarterbacks).
There are 21 Wide Receivers in the Hall of Fame right now. These others are a lock to make it in the near future: Chris Carter, Tim Brown, Andre Reed, Terrell Owens (posthumously), Randy Moss, Isaac Bruce and Marvin Harrison (he and OJ Simpson and Ray Lewis can all share a wing together). All of these guys should already be inducted by the time Ward is eligible and then he should be next in line. His career stats are better than those of other receivers of his era like Torry Holt, Jimmy Smith, Steve Smith, Reggie Wayne, Derrick Mason, Rod Smith, Donald Driver, Plaxico Burress, Chad Johnson and Anquan Boldin. Some of these guys still have a few years left in their careers, but they still aren’t likely to eclipse Ward’s numbers. Most of them aren’t even in the same league as Ward. As far as young receivers go, Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson are the only ones that appear likely to be headed to the Hall of Fame, but they still have several years left in their careers. Ward could see a span of about 5 years where is he the best WR candidate on the ballot and should be elected during that period.
I will conclude by saying that I am obviously a biased Steelers fan who would like to see Hines Ward rewarded for all of the great moments that he has provided for us fans over the years. He would definitely have my vote. I don’t know if the real HOF voters would see it the same way– but the stats back it up even though most people probably don’t realize it. Hines Ward belongs in the Hall of Fame some day.