Ward Not Worried But Wondering About Hall Of Fame Future

Ask any Pittsburgh Steelers’ fan if Hines Ward belongs in the Hall of Fame, and I’ll bet you an Iron City 90% of them say yes.

Ask anyone else in the league? Eh, I wouldn’t put money on it.

Ward talked to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and Mark Kaboly yesterday, explaining that he was unsure if he would get in. Or even what the basic criteria is.

“Is it stats? My stats are OK,” he told Kaboly. “Is it MVPs? I got a Super Bowl MVP. I got two Super Bowl rings. I really don’t know the criteria. I don’t know what is really expected to get in.” 

Ward was quick to point out to Kaboly that he “wasn’t worried” if he got in. While that’s one of the ultimate goals for any player, his career was an incredible success, gold jacket or not.

He is the only player in team history to reach 1000 receptions, hauling in 1000 exactly, a shovel pass to get him over the hump versus the Cleveland Browns.

Ward holds basically every major receiving record in Steelers’ history. Receptions, yards, and touchdowns, all by comfortable margins. For now at least – we’ll see where Antonio Brown’s career takes him.

But that’s just Steelers’ history and that alone is definitely not the criteria needed to be enshrined. Ward is in the difficult spot of playing in an era with Marvin Harrison, Terrell Owens, and Randy Moss, all of whom dust him statistically. Sure, none of them even came close to the type of hard-nosed blocker Ward was but that’s something that will be difficult to quantify and justify to the Hall of Fame committee.

It will rest on Ed Bouchette’s shoulders to state a case for Ward and convince the others to vote him in, football’s version of 12 Angry Men. Ward’s eligibility begins this year, five years removed from his playing days.

Ultimately, and feel free to chime in with your comments below, I don’t believe Ward gets in. Definitely not right away and probably not ever, either. We’ve seen wide receivers struggle to get voted in: Cris Carter and Andre Reed come immediately to mind. And Ward’s numbers simply pale in comparison to those aforementioned players. The intangibles just might not be enough to overcome that disparity.

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • Jones

    When they have to change the rules because of you, it at least merits consideration…

  • wilsonmjw

    Those other two never won anything…let alone win a Superbowl MVP.

    Also…how many WRs have had such an impact away from the ball that the NFL made a rule change that they might as well should have named after him?

  • Dorian James

    He’s probably the best blocking wide receiver I ever saw. But the league doesn’t care about stuff like that he is definitely not going to get in. Hell, these fools can’t even get the Donnie Shell thing right, smh

  • treeher

    I have to agree, reluctantly. While he was Hall of Fame in the House of Steel, he will merely get chalked up as a HOF nominee, at best.

  • WilliamSekinger

    Getting enshrined in the HoF as a WR is a tough nut to crack. I’m leaning toward he doesn’t make it in… ever

  • hojo

    When you have a rule named after you, by definition that makes you famous. Since the Hall of Fame is presumably a hall of famous football players, I think he deserves to make it. Otherwise, maybe the Hall of Fame should be called the Hall of Statistics.

  • Jones

    Well put.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    Black & Gold glasses aside, I always think part of the criteria should be unique players. I mean, it is the HoF. These are guys that should REALLY stand out. For me, Hines Ward fits that. There are very few (if any) players you can name that played the game quite like Hines did and while his numbers aren’t staggering all you need to do is turn on the tape. Not only was he consistenly good throughout his career, but he had big and great moments as well. Very tough after the catch and made some pretty spectacular plays.

    Anyone know the play (I believe against the Ravens) where Hines was falling back and his foot hit the ball and he punted it to himself for the catch?

    All that being said, I don’t think he gets in. People don’t think the way I do and a lot of it simply comes down to numbers.

  • Rob Erickson

    The reality is, Hines isn’t just vying for a spot against the other receivers of his era. There are only HOF inductees in any given year. If you were to rank him objectively against his contemporaries at the WR position he is probably #4 to get in. That discounts both the clear first ballot HOF players out there, the others who have been in a holding pattern a few years already AND the players who more recently retired (Favre, Manning, Reed, Troy) or due to retire soon who are also superior candidates. I think it is unlikely, given his resume, he gets in simply based on competition for limited spaces each year.

  • Man_of_Bats_81

    Hines Ward could of played in any era of football

  • Orlysteel

    If you’re a Hall voter , you have to know that there’s more to Hines Ward than the statistics, he was the only one of its kind, and probably the only receiver feared by defense of players,” there are lies there are damn lies and then there are statistics.” There will never be another one like # 86.

  • Alex Kozora

    Haha, I remember that one! Wackiest play I’ve ever seen. Didn’t Ed Reed or Ray Lewis come down with it?

  • Jeff McNeill

    I think he will not get in, it took Carter, Irving, Monk, and Brown years to get in and I think he is less than all of those guys. Ironically I believe he is far better than Swann.

  • Dan

    Whatever fan groups can do to make sure he makes it in ASAP we should do. WRs have had a tough time in recent years, but the HOF isn’t about positions or stats in single areas, it is about Football Players, and Ward was one of the best ever. Receiving stats are up there with many of the best, but he is THE best blocking receiver ever, he was a tremendous special teams player (remember the licks he laid his rookie year?), and a great character and all-around contributor to the game. I hope we can effectively campaign to keep his wait short.

  • Scunge

    I always dust these stats off when people try and say Hines is not HOF worthy or not equal to say somebody like Marvin Harrison.

    Ward had 88 catches, 1,181 yards, 10 TDs and 5 100 yard games in 18 playoff games. He was targeted 138 times and caught the ball 64% of the time. We went 12-6 in those 18 playoff games.

    Marvin Harrison, what did he do in the post-season? One of the all-time chokers in NFL history. He played in 16 playoff games and the team went 7-9. He had just one game where he went over 100 yards and it was that same game that he scored his only touchdowns, two.

    Harrison was targeted 133 times but caught only 49%, 65 catches, good for 883 yards and 2 TDs. Again, he scored both of those TDs in just one game. So, in the other 15 games, he was held without a TD. Everybody loves to talk about how if Indy had put a better defense around Manning that he would have more rings.

    Yet, time and time again it was Manning and Harrison choking in those playoff games, getting shut out, no points scored, 3 points scored in this loss, 14 points, 16 points, 17 points, etc. 8 losses where this supposedly all time great QB and all time great WR were held to 18 points or less.

    Meanwhile, our guy Ward and Ben, I think the average points scored on offense in those playoff losses is over 25 points.

    It is one thing to play in a dome and put up gaudy numbers, quite another to do it in the post-season. Ward was able to do it when it counted and that is why he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. Harrison to me is a sham, I could care less what you do during the regular season, if you go into the playoffs and choke year after year, that is not Hall of Fame worthy to me.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    He’ll get it, but it will be a waiting game.

  • Orlysteel

    And LC Greenwood

  • Orlysteel

    They were me first prima donnas, that took plays off, when frustration set in.

  • copanut

    The same kind of arguments were put up against Bettis. His stats were great but certainly not the best, but his playing style was historically unique and that case was presented successfully.

    As a thought experiment, how could Swann get in if Hines can’t? Hines blows away Swann statistically (3x the receptions, 12,000 yards vs 5,400 yards, etc). Swann’s uniqueness was his fluid and graceful acrobatics, but that is as unquantifiable as Hines’ stellar blocking ability. It was a different era, but even so that stats differences are stark.

    My view is that the player who holds virtually every team receiving record for the winningest team of the past half century has to be in the HOF, especially considering that arguably his best and most impactful characteristic was not necessarily his receiving! He will not make it on the first ballot but should make it at some point.

    I’m sure similar arguments will be made against Troy when his time comes, as so much of what he did does not show up in statistics. Some people will say he was great but too often injured and his greatness window was too short. Take it to the bank.

    All four of the guys mentioned above are absolutely unique and great, and all were crucial players for the must successful team in football. They all belong in the Hall.

  • Nicholas Allen Cotner

    Hines has a long wait ahead of him. There are two other Steelers that need to get in before Hines as well.

  • Alex Kozora

    The answer to Swann vs Ward is easy. Era.

    And the fact Swann for a time was clearly one of the top 2-3 WRs in the league. Ward never was.

    And Bettis was 5th in all-time rushing yards when he retired. He had the stats.

  • Jason Kelley

    Maybe I’m being a super homer here, but I feel like he’ll get in. His numbers are good enough, he has rings and a big performance in a Super Bowl. His numbers pale in comparison to the big number receivers, but I think it will help him that he was a unique WR. Whereas you can dismiss Randy Moss’ numbers to a certain degree because of his teams’ performance and his own inconsistencies, Ward gets that intangible boost.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    Now that you ask….Maybe. I was thinking Hines actually caught it.

  • Rob Erickson

    While I agree about intangibles, I think you picked a poor example with Moss. There is nothing to dismiss there. He holds the league record for rookie TD receptions with 17, league record for TD receptions in a season with 23 (elite in his generation of receivers), has 3000 more yards than Ward, 5 time All Pro to Ward 4 time Pro Bowl, holds numerous records…Moss is a far superior candidate. I think Owens would have been a better example.

  • copanut

    Sure, I mentioned era, but the fact is that Swann only played for 9 years and many people thought he was questionable for the HoF on that basis. Part of the reason that Swann’s stats are low is because of a different era, but that doesn’t explain all of it. Part of it was that he didn’t play long enough. Ward’s career was 50% longer, and most of his stats 2.5 – 3x better than Swann.

    But for all of Swann’s receiving talents, he couldn’t throw a block. Ward changed the game. If you take into consideration the entirety of the player’s impact, Hines belongs in the HoF at least as much as Swann, in my opinion.

    Players should be chosen for their net impact on the game, not for their position. Don’t give me a receiver. Give me a player.

  • Dorian James

    Heck yeah, smack me for forgetting LC

  • copanut

    Regarding Bettis, yes he accumulated a lot of yards, but his yards per carry was a pedestrian 3.9. My point here is not that he didn’t deserve to get in, but that it is easy for people to find reasons why almost any player should not get in. There was doubt about Bettis making it. There was doubt about Swann making it. Doubt has been expressed about Hines, Troy, and Ben. I think the case for all of them is pretty solid if they are looked at in their entirety and their uniqueness is considered, as it should be, by the voters.

  • Scott N.

    I was always under the impression that a player had to redefine his position in order to get into the Hall of Fame. I think Hines would fit that description.

  • Alex Kozora

    Eh, I’m pretty sure it got picked. Think the Steelers were getting thrashed that day…sort of summed up the game in a play.

  • Alex Kozora

    But no one is comparing Ward’s stats to Swann’s. So even if your point was valid, it isn’t what anyone is going to use. He’s going to be compared to those he played with in his era.

  • dany

    I could bet his in the HOF by 2029. He will wait, but he’ll get in

  • Rob Erickson

    By year:
    (2017) Dawkins, Taylor and Tomlinson first ballot options. Then Ward, Sanders (DPOY), McNabb
    (2018) Lewis, Moss, Urlacher first ballot options. Then Saturday, Barber, Seymour, Hutchinson
    (2019) Gonzalez, Bailey, Reed first ballot options. Then Samuel, Fletcher
    So in Ward’s HOF eligible class he has to be better than Sanders and McNabb. Let’s say he is. The next year he has to be better than Ronde Barber (nope), Richard Seymour (nope) and two linemen considered near-best at their position in their generation. The following year he has to be better than London Fletcher and Asante Samuel, who were top players at their position, which Ward never was.
    Any of those First Ballot options get bumped because of someone already waiting, it just further clogs Ward’s path to the HOF.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    Just googled it and found this:

    “The Ravens sacked Maddox six times and had him second guessing himself throughout the game. Bart Scott had eight solo tackles and two sacks and Anthony Weaver had eight total tackles and two sacks. Terrell Suggs had an interception called back on a penalty, but got it back when he later intercepted a ball that bounced off Hines Ward’s foot at mid-field on the Steelers’ final possession in regulation with 1:14 remaining. They held Pittsburgh to 70 yards rushing.”

  • WeWantDaTruth

    If it was the Hall of Stats, then guys like Priest Holmes, Shaun Alexander, MD would merit getting in. But the Hall of Fame should be for football players, and #86 was a damn good one.

  • ObiRynDenobi

    If he gets in in less than the 20 years it took Swann and Stallworth, it will be (Be still my heart!) “Dancing With the Stars” that did it!

  • falconsaftey43

    Looking back, Hines is one of those guys that I think has better career stats than you’d think, that should help him. But I judge HOF by the impression I had of them during their playing days. I always loved Ward and thought he was great, but I never considered him to be one of the top 2-3 WRs in the NFL at anytime. To me he’s not a HOF player, because there were simply too many other WRs during his time that were better.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    thanks for bringing up maddox. jerkface!

  • RickM

    Love Hines but there’s not a chance he gets in IMO. His superb blocking skills and SB MVP award are absolute plusses, but he just doesn’t have the bottom line receiving numbers. That doesn’t take anything away from his great career.

  • T3xassteelers

    He really could have. In fact, the era he did play in was probably the toughest for him lol!

  • Kevin Schwartz

    I don’t know, I looked at this stats and he really only had one dominant season (2002 – 112 receptions, 1329 yards, and 12 touchdowns). He had a few very good ones, and a few good ones. He might get points for blocking, leadership, and intangibles, but it’s gonna be tough to get over the hump.

  • Kevin Schwartz

    Agree – Moss is probably the best receiver I’ve ever seen (I was too young to really watch Rice) and his numbers are ridiculous.

  • Steve

    No haters here now. Hines was one Great Steeler.

  • Steve

    Hines loved going over the middle, weather to smack someone or catch the ball. It was defiantly his territory and he always had that Big smile, which opposing players just hated, but his fans loved.

  • Zach

    great analysis. Don’t forget Terrell Owens, and that may complicate things further for Hines. I don’t see Hines being inducted before TO, and given the polarizing personality of the latter, he may have a hard time to make the HOF.

  • Jeff Burton

    The HoF puts a lot of stock on intangibles and Hines has those in abundance. He was the go to receiver for clutch situations for years and was key contributor to the Steelers making it to and winning championships and Super Bowls. He played MUCH better than his stats and was Team Captain several times. He was also one the craftiest receivers and best route runners of all time. And yet another Steeler to have rule change with his name on it because of his dominance blocking. Marvin Harrison may go before him but a player like Andre Reed’s big claim other than stats is to play for the biggest Super Bowl LOSER in history and if you asked me, I’d pick Hines over either of those two. A 14 year career also doesn’t hurt. Stallworth and Swann both are among the MANY HoF receivers with less receiving and yardage stats than Hines. I think Ed Bouchette will have a VERY STRONG case to present to the Hall and knowing Ed’s eloquence I’m sure he’ll make it.

  • Dirque Leyr

    Plus. Heinz is half asian. Might get in to fill out that rainbow.
    Minus. He’s a steeler And we have soooooooo many people in the HoF already.

  • Rob Erickson

    With Marvin Harrison in, I would rank the receivers from this past era as Moss, Owens then Ward to get in. I think you made a very good point. Statistically Ward is stuck behind Owens and with Owens not necessarily being that popular it could further delay Ward seeing the Hall.

  • hojo

    oh yea that get in your opponent’s head smile, my favorite part about him.

  • Conserv_58

    If stats are the leading criteria then Hines won’t get in. If being a tough SOB whom was singularly responsible for the league enacting a rules change because of his, never-seen-before-from-a-wide receiver, style of play, then he get’s in.

    Hines, literally, re-defined the wide receiver position. Never before him has any wide receiver ever willingly blocked with such ferocity, violence and viciousness as Hines did, every game. No wide receiver before, Hines ever decleated and layed out opponents the way he did. Opposing defensive coordinators and players didn’t know how to deal with him because they had never seen a wide receiver play like a linebacker or strong safety before. Steelers fans will never forget seeing Hines knock ravens’ pro bowl safety, Ed Reed out cold and then see him stumbling around in circles after getting up.

    For Steelers fans that watched Hines play throughout his career, Hines doesn’t need a gold jacket to be embedded in our memories as one of the greatest Steelers of all time.

  • twitch.tv/smokerjoesteelers

    No way megatron is even considered. He may have if he finished his career but with a very early retirement it wont happen. You are just going off of hype of oh but its megatron here in my opinion.

  • Rob Erickson

    Seriously? Not even considered??? 3 time All Pro (+ 1 second team All pro); Current record holder for most yards in a season; youngest player to 10k and 11k yards; highest YPG average in NFL History over his 9 year career; largely seen as the best wide receiver of his era.
    Johnson is #27 all time in total yards (Ward is #23) but did it in 250 fewer receptions.
    He may or may not have played long enough to get in (see Earl Campbell) but his resume far exceeds Ward’s and he will definitely receive consideration.

  • disqus_mR1jByxt01

    I would think a SB MVP would put him over the top.

  • twitch.tv/smokerjoesteelers

    Receiver is a incredibly hard spot to get into the hall. Im not say Calvin wasnt elite or great but his career simply isnt long enough. Whos to say if it was a full 10 years or longer but there are receivers with more yards and more years and more accolades then Calvin who arent in. He wont get in.

  • Rob Erickson

    You misunderstand. I am not arguing Calvin Johnson gets in. I’m saying he would get consideration. And once in the mix its just another receiver with a better resume than Ward thus making Ward’s path to the Hall that much more difficult.

  • twitch.tv/smokerjoesteelers

    Oh Ok my mistake. Well Ward Has those 2 shiny rings