Earlier today Hines Ward announced that he is retiring from the NFL after 14 glorious seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. As one of the rabid Steelers fans out there I’m sad to see Hines go but am glad to see him go out the way that he did. Unlike Peyton Manning, Hines will have played for just one team his entire career and that’s the way that Steelers Nation wanted it to happen. Sports is a business and because of that teams often times have to make tough decisions that don’t allow for a story book ending. Every now and then, like when Jerome Bettis retired a Steeler after winning the Super Bowl in Detroit, things do work out and it makes both the player and fans happy. As a fan I often wonder how much the players that I root for really care. Sure they make millions of dollars and put their bodies on the line but in the end it’s still a job. It may be a dream job but it’s a job none the less. We have a hard time imagining that the players actually care as much or more than we do. Many of us, especially people from Pittsburgh, eat, sleep, and breathe everything Pittsburgh Steeler football so having a player like Hines Ward play his entire career with us is an absolute treat. I didn’t need to see Hines press conference announcing his retirement where tears rolled down his cheeks to know that he was one of the players that truly cared. He always showed it by the way that he played, the smile that was always on his face, and the love that he gave Steelers Nation.
For many of you non-Steelers fans you are probably ready to puke right now. What I just wrote is the equivalent of watching the sports version of the Notebook. Chances are that if you are a fan of an AFC North team you absolutely despise Hines Ward. You probably think that he’s dirty and you hate that smile that’s always on his face. I get it, really, I do. Here’s the thing, you wish you had Hines Ward on your team. If you are saying that you wouldn’t want him on your team you are a freaking idiot. Hines is everything that you would want in a wide receiver. He’ll go down as probably the best blocking wide receiver ever, he had 1000 catches which is 8th all time, and he has a Super Bowl MVP and two Super Bowl victories to his name. He was never a diva like Terrell Owens and you could always count on Hines being on the field. He was tough, and mean, and wasn’t afraid to knock the crap out of someone. Because of his attitude and play on the field it made the other wide receivers that the Steelers had better. What more could you ask for in a wide receiver?
Hines is the greatest Steelers wide receiver ever, I have no doubt about that. I also believe that we will one day see that giant smile of his enshrined in Canton, Ohio at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. If you can objectively tell me why he doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame then I want to hear it. When I think back at Hines career the number one play that stands out is his touchdown catch in the Super Bowl vs the Seahawks. At that point in my life the Steelers had never won a Super Bowl before (I was born in 1980) so getting that first one meant more to me than anything. That play was awesome and gives me a sports boner but there are two other plays that stand out and show why I love Hines Ward. Both of them are blocks, were clean hits and not flagged, and shows the type of Sonic Boom that Hines can lay down. The first is his hit on Cincinnati Bengal Keith Rivers and the second is his hit on Baltimore Raven Ed Reed.
Just rewatching those videos puts a giant Hines Ward-like smile on my face. Here’s to you Hines. When I get home I’ll crack open a Yuengling and toast to you. You will go down as one of my favorite players ever and Steelers Nation will always love you.