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Farewell Hines Ward

February 29, 2012 By: Admin Category: Uncategorized

February 29th is Leap Day.  It doesn’t happen very often.  In fact, it only comes around every 4 years.  But February 29, 2012 is a Leap Day that we would like to have skipped altogether.  It’s a Day that many in Steeler Nation hoped would never come.

But come it did.  On February 29, 2012, the Pittsburgh Steelers cut veteran wide receiver Hines Ward.

Ward is one of the most popular Pittsburgh Steelers of all time.  He’s been the face of the organization since Jerome Bettis retired after the 2005 season.

Ward holds most of the Steelers’ all-time receiving records.  His 1,000 career catches is almost double John Stallworth’s 537 catches.  His 12,083 yards is over 3,000 more than Stallworth achieved.  And his 65 receiving touchdowns is also the most in team history (once again, Stallworth is in second place).

Not only is Ward the all-time leading receiver in Steelers’ history, but he’s also a two-time Super Bowl Champion, and he played in a third Super Bowl but lost.  He was the MVP of one of those Super Bowls.  Those credentials ought to get him into the NFL Hall of Fame.

But when I think of Ward, I don’t think of any of those things.  In fact, the numbers are a very small part of who he was.

When I think of Hines Ward, the first thing that I think of is that ubiquitous smile.  When Ward caught a pass, he always had a smile on his face.  When he scored a touchdown, there was that smile.  And even when he got smashed into the ground by a safety or a linebacker, he still managed to get up with a big grin on his face.  It was almost as though Ward was asking the defender, “Is that the best you can do?”

Steelers WR Hines Ward

In an age of prima donna wide receivers, Hines Ward was never a diva.  He didn’t whine when he didn’t get the ball.  He didn’t cuss out his quarterback.  He didn’t showboat when he caught a pass.  He didn’t pull out Sharpies or cell phones when he caught a touchdown pass.   Instead, he’d look for a fan who was wearing his jersey, and hand them the ball.  How classy was that?

The other thing that I’ll always remember about Hines Ward was his devastating blocks.  Ward was only 6 feet tall, and just barely weighed over 200 lbs., but defenders knew that he could hit like a Mack truck.  They knew that they had to keep their eyes open when they played the Steelers.  Just ask Ed Reed.  Or Bart Scott.  Or Keith Rivers.  Heck, the NFL had to change their rules because of Hines Ward.  The new rule was even called the Hines Ward rule.

Hines Ward will be 36 years old in about 1 week.  So it was inevitable that his time would come.  But just like Leap Day, many of us hoped that it wouldn’t come for another 4 years.

Good bye, Hines.  Steeler Nation loves you.

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15 Comments to “Farewell Hines Ward”

  1. I must say that I’m dissappointed in this and not just because of the sentimentality.

    I fully expect Wallace, Brown, and Sanders to be the top 3. So yes, Hines would have only been the 4th WR (barring injury to the top 3) but he was willing to do that and he was willing to take a significant pay cut. So this isn’t about the $. But if it’s about talent, who exactly do the Steelers have at the 4th WR position?

    Cotchery is an unrestricted FA who I doubt the Steelers will be able to sign since he should be able to find a team where he’ll be higher than the 4th WR (which he would be on the Steelers).

    So that leaves a bunch of people you’ve never heard of who have no experience (Beiler, Gilreath, Williams, Stewert, Young) - 4 are undrafted FA’s who’ve never played in a game and Williams has only managed 9 catches over 3 years.

    So, what’s the plan for WR? Rookies? What happens if one of the top 3 gets injured?

    Side Note: I think it’s much less likely that Wallace will be targeted by another team considering the number of unrestricted free agent WR’s available.

  2. Melissa says:

    I must admit that I am shocked by this. The Rooneys do not typically do this kind of thing with their true, blue, lifetime players. I wonder if public uproar would cause the team to reconsider, and upon that, if Ward would come back smiling?
    Any other insight into the thought process of the front office is appreciated.

  3. A sad day in Steeler nation history. Not that I have not been through the comings and goings of players and coaches alike in my 45 years of life, but Hines was special. A player that all players admired if not liked. This past season “Terrell Suggs” arch Steeler rival said before a game where Hines was questionable, ” I hope he is out there, it won’t be the same if 86 is not out there”. Well Terrell he won’t be out there anymore. Hines was known by all players and all fans from teams across the country. He embrassed Steeler nation and we embrassed him as well.

    One of my best memories is simply dawning my 86 jersey on Sunday and yelling WARD! Into my tv set everytime he caught one of those all important 3rd and something passes he caught. He was a great and gratious player, even with his departing words to the Rooney family and to Steeler nation. You will be missed! Hines, if you read this for some reason, thanks for all the great memories!!!! And one more thing, please don’t sign with the ravens!!!

  4. Steelady says:

    This is a very devastating announcement. I really thought they would find a way to keep him. By the way, he had 85 tds, not 65.

    There will be other unpopular cuts made and we have to be prepared. So sad! Hines, don’t come back with another team and kick out ass. :(

  5. Patrick says:

    To the first two commenters:

    Ward would have been the 4th or 5th WR, after Wallace, Brown, and Sanders. NFL teams use the 4th and 5th spot for 2 things:

    1. To develop young receivers to one day take a place as a starter. Ward was never going to develop into anything better than he was. Unfortunately, he has slowed down and is not quite the player he once was.

    2. To contribute on special teams. Ward was unlikely willing to do this, but even if he was, could probably not contribute a great deal. He’s slower than he used to be and besides being worn down by playing ST and WR, he’d always have to watch his back on kickoffs and punts for some opposing player ending his career.

    So as you can see, keeping Hines on the team may have been the good sentimental move, but the wrong business move. They can’t develop young WRs while he’s taking their place on the bench, and Hines (unable to play Special Teams) would have been forcing another starter to play special teams when they really shouldn’t be.

    It is a business move, and the correct one from a business standpoint. I understand it. It doesn’t mean I have to like it.

  6. Patrick,

    I agree if Hines were slated to be the 5th WR but disagree in that, currently, he would be the 4th - especially considering the lack of depth Pittsburgh has behind the top 3.

    1) The Steeler’s already have young developing talent at WR (the top 3 are young, have yet to reach their potential, and should all be on the team for the next 2 years).
    2) the 4th WR does not necesarily play coverage on ST’s.
    3) The 5 bodies behind Hines haven’t shown anything worth developing…even in preseason games

    If the Steelers re-sign Cotchery I can understand the move. I just don’t see that happening. Without Cotchery and Hines, the Steelers have absolutely nothing after the top 3.

  7. Thanks for your thoughts Patrick…. it still, in my mind, is not a typical move for them. I just don’t want to see him go all Warren Moon on us. That would be sad.

  8. Dan Reisner says:

    It’s not clear that Hines has anything left to offer as a fourth receiver. As sad as it is to see him go, even without Cotch, I think that when we go 4 or 5 wide we’re better off with Heath and another tight end or even a running back than Hines. A TE or good running back can create match up problems but Hines has neither the size nor the speed to pose a threat other than a short completion and his craftiness is no longer enough to compensate. Also, we may keep Cotch or replace him in free agency.

  9. Melissa,
    Unfortunately this is pretty standard for WRs, even great ones. Look at TO playing in the Indoor League right now. Think about Tim Brown playing a year as a Buc. Think about Jerry Rice being let go by the Niners and having sad, unsuccessful stints in Seattle and Oakland. WRs, more than any other position, have a hard time realizing when they’re done.

    Cotchery was playing ahead of Ward last season. If they keep him (which I’ll bet they will) Hines would have been the 5th WR if Sanders wasn’t hurt all year. You can’t keep him on the roster because you’re afraid of depth concerns. Brown was one of those unproven rookies that got a shot and now he’s a starter.

  10. I don’t think our disagreement is that large. As I said above, I would undestand the move if they re-sign Cotchery. I just beleive that signing him will be more difficult than you think. Cotchery should be able to get an offer from a team where he will be the 2nd or 3rd WR (not 4th like the Steelers).

    If they lose both Hines and Cotchery, then we have absolutely nothing behind the top 3 (who have all missed some time from injury over the past 2 years).

    And, seriously, don’t go comparing the bodies we have now to Brown. Brown was a good prospect from a small school who flashed talent early on but who needed development. The guys we have left haven’t flashed anything…anytime.

    I would love to be proved wrong but I don’t think we can depend on the current group of backups to amount to a competent 5th WR, let alone a 4th.

    There is apparently a deep group of WR’s in this years draft, so I can see them drafting a late round prospect with upside to develop in the 5th WR position. I just remain concerned about the lack of depth/experinece at the 4th spot.

  11. We will miss your smiling face Hines Ward. Best wishes to you and whatever the future holds.

  12. I’m very upset by this this guy has more heart and skills thin enty of them young Guy’s. Bro if I have to make music videos blogs to get u back on the team That’s What ill do2012 chuck eazon

  13. I’m not shocked by this, but I’m sad to see him go. On paper, we’re losing our #5 receiver from last year, but he meant much more to the organization than just the 5th option at WR. I was hoping he’d retire a Steeler.

    Also: I saw from Adam Schefter that Aaron Smith will be next. Sad to see some of these older guys go, but it’s time. Now, how about cutting Kemoeatu?

  14. Dan Reisner says:

    I think Chris will be let go or made to eat a lot of his salary. Aaron Smith was on the team in name only for the past three seasons. The next big question is whether we lose Farrior or Foote. We should also expect only a handful of games more from Big Snack. This is a lot of transition to swallow along with a new OC but I still feel good about this team being highly competitive if Ben stays healthy.

  15. marjorie onea; says:

    hines ward is a steeler that will be missed more by the steeler nation than any other steeler ever. his capabilities to a multidue of playing, ie, receiving, blocking (one of the best) his hypnotic smile always there. i don’t think the steelers made a wise decision on this. he was willing to basically take an allowance to play for the steelers one more season, they never even offered a deal like that to him. he received no respect after playing 14 seasons and being a major contributor to their success. i hate to think of hines in a different uniform, but if he still feels like he can play ( which i think he can) than he should…. we will miss you hines, not seeing #86 and that smile on the field is going to be very weird…. best of luck , the steeler nation will never ever forget you or stop loving you….


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