With receiver Hines Ward retiring after 14 NFL seasons, all with the Steelers, the obvious question becomes whether he has done enough to secure a bronze bust in Canton. Surprisingly, plenty of fans presume he has no shot, given an ever-growing logjam of wideout whose numbers have been pumped up by a proliferation of passing.
But Ward’s credentials include something the Andre Reeds and Cris Carters and Tim Browns and (in time) Terrell Owens and Randy Mosses don’t: a Super Bowl ring. More accurately, two of them. (Having a Super Bowl MVP trophy doesn’t hurt, either.)
The fact that he generated 1,000 receptions (eighth on the all-time list) for 12,083 yards (18th) and 85 touchdowns (13th) despite playing for a team that doesn’t exactly air it out makes his numbers more impressive.
Them there’s the fact that Ward has more career catches that Steelers Hall of Fame wideouts John Stallworth and Lynn Swann, combined.
Throw in a reputation for being a tenacious blocker with an infectious smile and no inclination to act like a diva, and Ward becomes a legitimate candidate for Canton.
In the end, the rings likely will make the difference. Championship teams tend to be well represented in the Hall of Fame, and Ward was one of the biggest contributors to the Steelers teams that got the elusive “one for the thumb” and then started on the other hand, or other appendages.
It may not happen on the first try, but Ward has done enough for his team and for the game to deserve a spot alongside Stallworth and Swann and the other Steelers great who will forever be honored and remembered.