On April 25th 2009, Hines Ward signed a four-year contract extension ensuring that he will retire in a Pittsburgh Steelers uniform. Steelers’ fans would not have it any other way, Hines Ward has become one of the most beloved athletes in the city of Pittsburgh. Since being drafted in 1998 by the Steelers, Ward has become known for his clutch catches, his devastating blocks, and his trademark smile. Playing an entire career with the same team is extremely rare in today’s NFL, but Hines Ward is a rare type of person, the type that the NFL could use more of.
Hines Ward may be a wide receiver, but some may know him best for his ability to hit. Over the years, one aspect of Ward’s game that has been highly criticized, is his blindside blocks on defensive players. While some consider Ward’s tactics dirty, others applaud him for having the courage to take on players twice his size. During the 2008 season, in a Week 7 game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Ward put a hit on Bengals’ linebacker, Keith Rivers, which ended the linebacker’s season. It was this particular hit, which influenced the NFL to put a new rule in place. Commonly referred to as “The Hines Ward Rule”, starting in the 2009 season, a blindside block will be illegal if the blocker uses his shoulder, forearm, or helmet and hits the head or neck area of the defender.
Think of wide receivers for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the first two names that come to mind for most people are John Stallworth and Lynn Swann, but check the Steelers’ record books and the first name shown is that of Hines Ward. Very quietly, Hines Ward has become the all-time leading receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers, passing the legendary names of Stallworth and Swann. Ward is a four-time Pro Bowler, and has had five career 1,000 receiving seasons to go with his 72 career touchdowns. The shining moment of Ward’s career thus far was his stellar performance in Super Bowl XL against the Seattle Seahawks. Ward had five receptions, for 123 yards and a touchdown. His efforts helped the Steelers get a 21-10 victory and the MVP Award. Ward became the fifth wide receiver in Super Bowl history to be named MVP, and the other Steeler on that list is none other than Lynn Swann.
Over 9,000 receiving yards, two Super Bowls, and four Pro Bowls later, Hines Ward shows no signs of slowing down. Entering his thirteenth season, Ward is playing harder than ever. Only Ward knows when he will play his last game, but it is believed by many that he already earned his place in Canton, Ohio. When that day comes, fans can be sure to see a familiar sight, Hines Ward on the steps of the Hall of Fame smiling, like they have seen so many times before.
Michael C. Smith