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Former Steelers great Hines Ward shares key reasons why he's not in the Hall of Fame

Hines Ward immediately recalls the 2008 game between the Steelers and the Texans.

The Steelers spent most of the second half running the ball and defending a large lead, but the Texans aired the ball while capitalizing on the talents of number one wideout Andre Johnson. The Steelers eventually won the game, but Johnson finished with flashier numbers. This is just one of his instances where Ward won the game, but based on circumstances beyond his control, he never put up a bigger number than one of his peers.

It’s one of the reasons Ward feels he’s currently not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, despite being a semifinalist six years in a row. Although he achieved his ultimate team goal of winning the Super Bowl twice, one particular individual accolades earned Ward the greatest individual honor a professional football player could receive. Maybe that’s why it wasn’t.

“The feedback, or what I hear, is, ‘Well, you’re an All-Pro (you weren’t),'” Ward said in a recent interview with CBS Sports. I wasn’t doing the offense to be an All-Pro, we had an All-Pro offensive lineman and an All-Pro running back because that was our offense.”

Ward spent most of his 14-year career playing in the run-first offense. Instead of digging deep and coming up with big stats, Ward was catching passes across the middle like a Yeoman, creating blocks and opening up running space for Jerome Bettis and Willie Parker.

When asked to play in the passing game, Ward almost always did. With the running game crippled, Ward made his two biggest plays in Super Bowl XL. This includes his catch of the game-winning touchdown that led to him earning MVP honors in the game. Ward made a variety of other big catches in clutch moments during his career while helping the Steelers get back into the upper echelon of the NFL.

“I look at what I did in the 2000s,” Ward said. “To go to three Super Bowls and win two. I was a complicated part of that team, like everyone else in the organization. Only control what you can, I can’t control (Hall of Fame), just having my name mentioned among the greats in uniform is a blessing in itself and for now it’s I’m the one wearing the hat.”

Ward doesn’t necessarily agree with Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin that if the Steelers had defeated the Packers in Super Bowl XLV, he would have already had a bronze bust and a gold jacket.

“I don’t think we need to win three Super Bowls,” Ward said. “Most people don’t have one and they’re in the hall. So you’re saying you have to climb a mountain to win three to get a bid? For whatever reason, it’s That one.”

A third-round pick in the 1998 NFL Draft, Ward initially made a name for himself as a special teams standout in the NFL. He won his starting job in 1999 despite Pittsburgh drafting fellow wideout Troy Edwards in the first round during the offseason. Once in the starting lineup, Ward quickly developed his reputation as a hard-nosed player who embraced all aspects of being a footballer.

Ward began receiving league-wide accolades for the work he was doing in 2001. He was named the first player to four consecutive Pro Bowls while helping the Steelers reach his AFC Championship Game. Ward’s success that season was significant given the fact that Pittsburgh lost Betis in the final stretch of the regular season after the future Hall of Famer suffered an injury.

Ward had his best statistical season a year later, despite the Steelers changing quarterbacks. Pittsburgh moved from Cordell Stewart to Tommy Maddox, who had not appeared in an NFL game since 1992 prior to that season and had yet to earn a regular season start.Ward After another big year in 2003, rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger led the way with four consecutive 1,000-yard campaigns. When Big Ben was inducted into the Hall of Fame with the Steelers, Ward was in his seventh season and he had already made three Pro Bowl appearances.

“My best years weren’t even Ben Roethlisberger,” Ward said. When I called the play and threw the ball 60 yards, Ben wasn’t there.”

Regardless, Ward’s career numbers are right up there with some of the most prolific wideouts in league history. slightly ahead of Johnson. He is one of only 14 receivers with 1,000 career receptions in league history. He has 18 more career catches than Hall of Fame receiver Randy Moss, who was inducted into Canton in his first year of eligibility. Entering wideouts are the same totals that Alworth and Paul Warfield had during their careers.

Ward’s postseason totals are what really propels his Hall of Fame debate to the top. is. His three touchdown catches during the 2005 postseason helped the Steelers become the first No. 6 seed to win a Super Bowl.

Ward is one of the most prolific and high-profile names in history, including Moss, Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson, Chad Johnson, Marvin Harrison, Terrell Owens, Tory Holt, Reggie Wayne and Steve Smith Sr. I played in an era when I played with receivers. , among others. Unlike Ward, many of those players were the focus of the pass-first offense. Calvin Johnson, Moss, Harrison and Owens have a combined 15 All-Pro nominations and are inducted into the Hall of Fame. Conversely, Holt, Smith, Ward, Wayne, Chad He Johnson, Andre His Johnson combined he has eight All-Pro nominations and is not in the hall despite posting similar numbers. of the championship team.

“I don’t know if everything will be All-Pro,” Ward said. “One, when I’m not playing the offense that makes an All-Pro receiver. And two, when Randy Moss and Marvin Harrison have great stats year after year. But that’s me. It shouldn’t be raining on the parade. Looking at the people on that list, I feel like I should mingle with all those people. …People sitting there saying For, ‘I don’t have an All-Pro,’ I just laugh and chuckle.

For now, Ward remains the norm as far as Steelers receivers go. He remains at the top of the team’s career records in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches. Ward joins several former teammates who were inducted into the Steelers Hall of Fame in 2019.

Ward said he’s surprised he’s still the receiving leader of his Steelers career 11 years after playing the final game between Black and Gold.

“Considering the game is over,” Ward said with a laugh. “I think all records are made to be broken by these great elite wideouts. Considering all the great players, my name is still at the top of the list as far as receiving categories. It’s been a blessing for me to see it in. Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Antonio Brown, all the guys I’ve played with, and the younger group of guys, Dionte (Johnson), Chase (Claypool), (George) Pickens.

“A lot of talent has gone through that organization. I’m grateful to be at the top, but all records are made to be broken. Now you have 17 games in the league. But at the end of the day, being at the top means having longevity and being productive year after year and having a great organization like Pittsburgh for a whole career. It’s a blessing to me that Hall is listed as one of the greatest players ever to wear a black and gold jersey, and I am very grateful.”

Ward currently serves as an ambassador for the NFL Alumni Association’s Huddle Up: Let’s Talk About Obesity campaign. Ward said the trip to the doctor influenced his lifestyle changes.

“I tried to be proactive as a player,” Ward said. “Then I did Dancing with the Stars, I did Iron Man. Before I started coaching, I sat at my desk all day eating and watching movies. When I do, I sit and watch a lot of TV instead of coaching…. As a retired player, I’m getting older and my metabolism is starting to slow down and I can’t sit down and eat everything I want.

“There’s still a way to go, but it’s about figuring out your habits and lifestyle. Getting some sleep, not eating a whole bag of Cheetos (laughs). …for me, it’s a lifestyle decision.” I wanted to live longer, I wanted to be healthier. If you can influence people… invest in their time, that’s the premise of why I wanted to be part of this whole campaign, because I think that’s important.”

Ward said some of his old teammates started placing friendly bets within a group chat based on who lost the most weight in retirement. is the key to living a balanced life.

“I have a great group of teammates. We’re just competitors no matter what we do in life,” Ward said. “When you’re competing with your teammates when it comes to losing weight and getting back in shape, it gives you extra motivation to stay on top of your game.”