After 14 years, four Pro Bowl appearances, three trips to the Super Bowl, two championships, and a Super Bowl MVP award, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward decided to officially hang up his cleats, and walk away from the game of football on his own terms.
Ward ends his stellar career as the Steelers’ all-time leading receiver in receptions (1,000), receiving yards (12,083), and receiving touchdowns (85).
However, Ward, who was released by the Steelers on March 2nd, will be most know for his blue-collar mentality on the gridiron that was a perfect match for the city of Pittsburgh. Although he has Pro Football Hall of Fame numbers receiving-wise, his tenacity and will to get down and dirty was what set him apart from other receivers in the NFL.
Known as one of the best blocking receivers of all-time, Ward’s physical play often had people calling his style of play dirty and over-the-top. Regardless of what was said, Ward just continued to play Steeler football the way that is was supposed to be played.
Personally, I am very happy that Ward decided to retire and not end his career in another uniform. It would have hurt the hearts of everyone in Steelers Nation to see the greatest receiver that the city of Pittsburgh has ever seen in anything else but Steelers black and gold.
It’s very unfortunate that the business of football overshadows the blood, sweat, and tears that a player has put into a franchise for his entire career. Although I’m glad that Ward is retiring as a Steeler, I would have been happier if team president Art Rooney II and general manager Kevin Colbert would have granted Ward’s wishes and re-signed him for another year or two, especially since Ward was willing to take a pay cut.
In the end, Ward did the right thing by retiring. I say this because I’m not a fan of seeing great players end their Hall of Fame careers in another uniform. Joe Namath ended his career with the Los Angeles Rams after leaving the New York Jets. Johnny Unitas parted ways with the Baltimore Colts for the San Diego Chargers. Joe Montana traded his San Francisco 49ers red and gold for the red and gold of the Kansas City Chiefs, and Emmitt Smith finished the greatest career for a running back in an Arizona Cardinals uniform after not being re-signed by the Dallas Cowboys.
The last thing that any fan of Hines Ward wants to see is him donning the colors of another team. As reported by Teresa Varley of www.steelers.com, Ward put it best in his retirement press conference.
“As much as I will miss football, my teammates, coaches and everything about the game, I don’t want to play it in any other uniform,” said Ward. “The black and gold runs deep in me, and now I will remain a Steeler for life.”
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