My beloved Pittsburgh Steelers released franchise record-holding receiver Hines Ward earlier this afternoon. Ward played 14 years for the Steelers, and set franchise receiving records in receiving. In fact, he holds ALL of the franchise receiving records.
Ward’s release reminds us just how cruel the NFL is on the business side. All contracts are not guaranteed – outside the signing bonus – and teams will cut players in a New York minute.
In the end, it doesn’t matter that Ward played 14 years with the team. It doesn’t matter that Ward set every franchise receiving record. It doesn’t matter that Ward was a team and civic icon.
Most players will either get cut or forced to retire, even a future Hall of Famer in Ward.
Yeah I said it. Even though Ward played in only four Pro Bowls, Ward is pound for pound among the toughest players in the game. He is definitely the toughest wide receiver in the game.
So the next question is, where does Ward rank among the all-time greats in Steeler history? I think he is the best player in franchise history.
Sure, there were great players who played on the Steeler teams of the 70s. I just think that no one player stood out on that team, maybe because there were so many great players and leaders on that team.
I just think that Ward stood out for his play and his leadership. I think that he was captain for all but his first two seasons for the Steelers. Because of all of that, he was a constant on those successful Steelers teams for the last decade.
If that is not considered an all-time great, I do not know what is.