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A look at the career of Hines Ward, Man of Steel

Somehow it just doesn’t seem right, ending this way for Hines Ward. He’s supposed to be the guy that rides off into the sunset on a black ‘n gold stallion much like Jerome Bettis did after the Steelers won Super Bowl XL.  The NFL is a business though and anybody who’s a Steeler fan or an NFL fan saw this coming sooner or later; you hate to see it happen but you just knew it was inevitable.

Ward made a statement this evening via his Facebook pageThis isn’t how I wanted this chapter of my career to end. I did everything in my power to remain a Steeler and finish what I started here 14 years ago. I want to thank the organization, my teammates and coaches and everyone who made my run as a Steeler the best years of my life. To Mr. Rooney, thank you for allowing me to play for one of the greatest organizations in the world. To my fans and in particular, Steeler Nation, thank you for your support and all the great memories. I gave my heart and soul for you every down and I will always bleed black and gold. I do feel that I still have more football left in me and I am looking forward to playing in the NFL, again, this upcoming season. – HINES

It goes without saying that it just won’t seem right not having Hines in Pittsburgh anymore but it’s reality now, the end of an era.

Rather than try to put everything about the great Psycho Ward himself into just one article, we decided to do things a little differently.  Here you can read about Ward’s accomplishments with the Steelers, while my writing partner Marc, will be putting down his thoughts in another feature on saying goodbye to a legend. So let’s jump right into it shall we…

Acknowledging that Hines was a great player is like saying the grass is green, everybody knows it.  Even those who despise the Steelers have respect for Ward and what he’s done in the game.  That gigantic smile, bone crushing blocks, and clutch catches after getting blasted while going across the middle are trademarks that you expect from #86 and he never failed to deliver. Even in his last season with the Steelers, with limited playing time, he gave it his all every chance he had. Deep down inside I’m sure it bothered him to not be on the field, any competitor would feel the same way.

When you talk about Hines Ward, you are talking about perhaps the greatest wide receiver in Steelers’ history and certainly the best blocking wide receiver in NFL history. quote from

Ward was drafted in 1998 in the 3rd round out of Georgia by the Steelers and then Head Coach Bill Cowher. It was thought that he could have been a 2nd round pick, possibly even a late first rounder but the fact that he has no ACL in his left knee scared off NFL teams from taking him sooner. Ward left college with 149 career catches for 1,965 yds. He was the “slash” version for the Bulldogs as he also played tailback and amassed a total of 3,870 all purpose yds. He played mainly on special teams his first year with the Steelers but once he got onto the field regularly in 1999 there was no stopping him.

Ward will end his Steeler career as as a 4 time pro bowler, and 3 time team MVP. His accomplishments also include having 1,000 career receptions for 12,083 yds and 85 touchdowns (you can see a full list on the chart below). Ward also had 29, 100 yd receiving games, which if you do the simple math is just 2,900 yds via what is generally considered a “good game” for NFL receivers. That means the bulk of his yardage was earned the hard way with short to intermediate catches in traffic making clutch plays when you absolutely have to have them.  Hines going across the middle and finding the soft spot in the zone was as much a regular occurrence as seeing him get clocked into next week after going up for a high pass while being in the cross hairs of a waiting Safety. Anybody who considered that fun had to be a special type of player.

Who can forget some of the great Hines Ward memories; like the Super Bowl XL catch from Antwaan Randle El or the Chad Johnson/Ochocinco dance in the end zone.  The epic block on Keith Rivers of the Bengals back in 2008 that broke the linebackers jaw, or the Ravens Ed Reed getting completely blown up by an oncoming Ward sizing him up for the kill shot.  I think what was just as great about that particular hit and others like in the Ravens/Steelers rivarly is the comments by Reed after the fact and years later. Who can forget the “Ward tried to cheap shot me or the Ward is a dirty player” comments. For the record anybody with half a brain knows Ward is not a dirty player and never has been. For all those fans who cried foul every time Ward made a block; you’d have loved him if he was on your team.

In the end, a guy like Hines Ward can certainly be replaced from a production standpoint on the modern era Steelers, with all the young talent the team has at wide receiver now. His leadership on and off the field, his locker room presence, and his patented smile though will live on forever.
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