Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Is Hines Ward the Greatest Steeler Ever?

Before you immediately discredit me, give me a chance to explain.

As I was heading into work Monday morning, I was listening to analysis of the game on the radio. They went over Mendenhall's performance, how inconsistent Dixon looked, yadda yadda yadda. Then a caller called in to talk about Hines Ward, and he said, "If Hines Ward isn't the greatest Steeler of all time, I don't know who is."

My first reaction was to roll my eyes and think, "Typical 'Yinzer'. The Steelers win an early season game, and it's as if we found a cure of cancer, and there will be an 80 percent chance of money rain today (Where are you, Pac Man Jones?). People need to get a grip."

Then I actually thought about it. And it may not have been the dumbest thing I've ever heard.

With his six-catch, 108 yard performance on Sunday, Ward became only the 12th receiver in NFL history with both 900 catches and 11,000 yards. The TWELFTH. His 78 career touchdown catches is good enough for 22nd. Ward already rewrote the Steelers record books long ago, and he continues to cement his place as one of the greatest to ever play his position.

There is no doubting that Ward is the best wide receiver to ever don the Black and Gold, but could he be the best Steeler player ever? That would mean placing him above such names as Franco Harris, Terry Bradshaw, Jerome Bettis, Jack Lambert, Joe Greene, and the list could go on and on. The only one that statistically holds a candle to Ward is Bettis, who ranks 5th all time in rushing yards, and 10th in touchdowns. Bradshaw ranks 44th in passing yards, behind such stars as Dave Kreig (13th), Jim Everett (16th) and Brad Johnson (38th).

But we all know that statistics aren't everything. Numbers are simply the only tangible way of comprehensive evaluation. In order to truly determine a player's worth, one needs to just watch him play. Even though his stats are impressive, that's where Hines Ward truly stands out. Hines is known throughout the league more for plays that don't end up in the scoresheet, rather than ones that do. Ward plays wide receiver with the same tenacity as Jack Lambert played linebacker, which has always been the key to endearing himself to the Steeler faithful.

I haven't even mentioned his Super Bowl MVP award, but uh, yeah, he's also a Super Bowl MVP.

So I'm going to go ahead and start making the push. For the first time, I agree with a radio yinzer. I think Hines Ward, when he hangs up his cleats for the last time, should be considered the greatest Steeler ever. He personifies the heart and soul of Pittsburgh: the relentless, gritty underdog that brings his hard hat to work day in and day out.

If you needed a reminder:

Feel free to tell me if you think I'm right, or if I'm right.


  1. I've felt this way for a long time. No one I have ever seen plays receiver the way Hines Ward does. If you told me 35 years ago that the player that would define what it is to be a Steeler in the year 2010 would be a wide receiver, I would have laughed at you. A physically punishing player with skills, a super attitude and that ever present smile. Everyone expects a linebacker to be an intimidator; no one expects it from a wide receiver. He set a standard for all Steelers of the future and I will always respect him for it.

  2. Couldn't agree more (in case you couldn't tell from the post). I'm not exactly sure when he'll hang it up, but he'll likely end up in the top 5-10 wide receivers, statistically. For nostalgia's sake, most don't put him above a lot of the 1970s players, but anyone born after 1980 imagines Hines' grin when they think of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    Plus he's on Dancing with the Stars. Can't forget that.