The Pittsburgh Steelers Saturday game against the St. Louis Rams certainly does not have a lot of drama to it outside of wondering if quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will play on his injured left ankle, but the underlying back story in this game is that there is an outside chance that it could be the last game at Heinz Field for veteran wide receiver Hines Ward.
The Steelers currently sit as the #5 seed in the AFC, and unless the Baltimore Ravens lose one of their two final games of the season, the Steelers will likely make their march towards their 7th Lombardi Trophy on the road in the playoffs.
Ward said before the season started that he wanted to play until the wheels fall off and talked about playing two more seasons. He is currently under contract through the 2013 season, but he has seen his snaps deteriorate this year. Since the game against the Arizona Cardinals back in week 7, he has played just 75 total offensive snaps in total. He also missed the week 8 game against the New England Patriots because of an ankle injury suffered against the Cardinals and he had to leave the week 9 game against the Ravens early with concussion-like symptoms. He only saw 9 snaps this past Monday night against the San Francisco 49ers as Jerricho Cotchery received the bulk of the 3 receiver set snaps.
Ward currently sits 9 receptions short of 1,000 for his career and he managed to pass the 12,000 receiving yard mark a few weeks back. He has said all the right things to the media about his decreased role this year, but you have to know that he sees the writing on the wall at this point. With two games remaining, it will be a stretch for him to get his 9 catches needed for the 1K mark, and should he get those 9, the 9th will more than likely take place on the road in Cleveland of all places. Right down the road from Canton, the home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Should the Steelers end up making it to Indianapolis in February and capture their 7th Super Bowl championship, it would make 3 for Ward. He almost certainly would retire at that point and has hinted as such over the last several months. His resume is already likely good enough to get a bronze bust, but a 3rd championship and 1000 receptions should seal the deal. He might not be a first ballot selection, but he will get in.
Ward has done so much for the Steelers, the city of Pittsburgh and the game of football. Fans that attend the game on Saturday should thank him more than usual for all he has done, and if you have a #86 jersey in your closet, make sure to wear it to the game. You never know, it might be the last time he can see you in it at home as a Steelers player.