With the recent announcement by Steelers receiver Hines Ward that he would like to play a couple of more seasons, it is time to once again look at his credentials and chances of one day being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Here is my post last offseason on Ward for a reference point when I last posted about his run to Canton.
First and foremost, Ward is the leading receiver in Steelers history in receptions (954), receiving yardage (11,702) and touchdown catches (84). He has more receptions than Steelers Hall of Fame receivers John Stallworth and Lynn Swann combined. He also leads the Steelers in at least 14 different career receiving categories as you can see in the chart below.
Steelers Receivers (All-Time)
|Career 100-Yard Games||29||1st|
|Consecutive Games w/ Catch||186||1st|
|1,000-Yd. Seasons (2001-04, 2008-09)||6||1st|
|Consecutive 1,000-Yd. Seasons (2001-04)||4||1st|
|90-plus Catch Seasons (2001-03, 2009)||4||1st|
|Consecutive 90-plus Catch Seasons (2001-03)||3||1st|
|Receptions in a Season (2002)||112||1st|
|Rushing Yards by a Receiver||428||1st|
|Consecutive Pro Bowls by Receiver (2002-05)||4||1st|
|Consecutive Seasons as Team’s Leading Receiver||11||1st|
|Consecutive 100-Yard Games (2002)||3||T-1st|
|TD Receptions in a Season (2002)||12||T-1st|
|Receptions in a Single Game (11/30/03)||13||2nd|
|Receiving Yards in a Season (2002)||1,329||3rd|
|100-Yard Games in a Season (2002, 2005, 2008, 2009)||5||T-3rd|
|Receiving Yards in a Game (10/22/06)||171||11th|
Compared to other active receivers still playing, Ward currently is tied for third overall among active wide receivers (T-9th overall in NFL history) with 954 career receptions. He is tied with Randy Moss and only Terrell Owens ranks higher with 1,078 career receptions. His 186 consecutive game streak with at least one reception was snapped in 2010 against the Patriots, after he suffered a concussion, and that streak ranks him 3rd all-time behind Hall of Famer Jerry Rice and the Colts great receiver Marvin Harrison.
As far as post season stats go, his 7 receptions in Super Bowl XLV against the Packers moved him into 2nd place all-time behind only Rice in post season receptions as Ward now has 88 in total. His 78 yards receiving in that game moved into fifth place on the NFL’s all-time postseason list with 1,181 reception yards. In addition, the touchdown he scored in that game tied him with Fred Biletnikoff, Antonio Freeman and Moss for third place on the NFL’s all-time postseason list with 10 receiving touchdowns.
In addition to those stats, Ward has been voted to four Pro Bowls, led the Steelers to three Super Bowls, two Super Bowl wins and named Super Bowl MVP once.
Now it is time to update where he ranks in regards to other receivers already in the Hall of Fame and some of the top receivers all-time still trying to get in.
Current Hall of Fame Receivers
Active & Retired Receivers Not In Hall of Fame
As you can see by stacking the numbers, Ward is already close to being Hall of Fame worthy. If he indeed plays 2 more seasons like he claims he wants to, he surely can easily add another 100 receptions and another 1,000 receiving yards to his totals. Another 10 touchdowns is certainly attainable as well. 1,100 total career receptions and 13,000 total receiving yards seem unlikely over the next two seasons, but it is not totally out of the question. Should Ward add another Super Bowl win to his resume in 2011 or 2012, one would think it would nearly guarantee a call from Canton.
Should Ward indeed play through 2012, he would be eligible to be inducted 5 years after retiring, but may be on the same waiting list with Moss and Owens at that point. In reality, he likely will not be a first ballot inductee, but should be primed to be part of the 2020 or 2021 class, as retired players like Harrison, Cris Carter, Tim Brown, Isaac Bruce and Andre Reed will likely get the nods first. Ward is an all-around great receiver as evidenced by his great blocking and willingness to go over the middle to make a catch. He has never been known as a receiver that will stretch the field, as his yards per catch average shows, but he is the consummate possession receiver that can find the open areas of the field and move the chains in addition as is evidenced by his 600 catches for 1st downs. Ward is a leader both on and off the field and epitomizes what a Steelers player and an old school wide receiver truly is.
Here is to at least two more great seasons for Ward as he continues his march towards the Hall of Fame and his own smiling bronze bust in Canton.