It seems as if Hines Ward has been around forever.
And, for the most part, he has.
Ward was the Steelers' third-round choice in the 1998 draft, and everyone in Pittsburgh is well aware of his accomplishments. As the most decorated receiver in the history of the franchise, Ward has been adding to his franchise-record totals since 2005, when he broke John Stallworth's record of all-time receptions by catching his 538th football with the team.
That was nearly five years ago. Since then, countless records have been adjusted to show Hines Ward as their holder.
Ward has long displayed the blueprint for what the Steelers stand for as a football team.
Now, he stands alone as the true offensive leader of the most successful franchise in NFL history.
Say what can be said about his play, but understand this: Despite a Sports Illustrated poll in 2009 showing Ward to be the dirtiest player in the NFL, as voted by his peers, any offense would embrace and benefit from an athlete who provides a unique skill set that is unmatched throughout the league—even at the ripe age of 34.
Now, Ward must be identified as the sole leader of an offensive group teeming with bottomless talent.
Ben Roethlisberger, co-captain of the offense during the last two seasons, simply isn't deserving of the honor anymore.
Sure, go ahead and make the argument that Roethlisberger deserves the recognition. But understand not only has his reputation in society taken a hit, but it also could be assumed that the effect possibly will be felt in the locker room, as well.
Not even Ben's lawyer can determine the outcome of the recent accusations against Roethlisberger—and while society should not rush to judgment, it can be said that the majority of national headlines throughout Ben's career have displayed a certain negative portrayal.
The motorcycle incident was oh so long ago, but not everyone has forgotten.
Then there was Andrea McNulty.
And now the situation in Georgia.
Compare Ben with other quality quarterbacks in the NFL.
Does Peyton Manning drink and party and "live it up" while making an incredible salary during the offseason? Or is he working with his receivers constantly to improve his and their game?
How about Brew Brees? Eli Manning? Anyone?
Roethlisberger has taken a positive start to a career and slowly ruined it, step by step. Why anoint him as captain when his playing status for next year may be in jeopardy?
Ward deserves a better co-captain—or better yet, Ward should simply be the captain.
The 2010 season will undoubtedly be Ward's sixth consecutive season as a captain of the offensive group.
The question is, should Ward have a co-captain? If so, who should it be?
To some, Roethlisberger should be eliminated from the selection.
Then again, it is up to the players to determine who is defined as leader. They are responsible to vote on the selections each year.
Will the Rooney family step in and have a say? Will Mike Tomlin persuade through his intellectual voice?
Logic says no, that the organization will play this process out as usual.
Will fans be disappointed next season if Ben is selected by his teammates as leader? Of course, the opinions will vary.
Bottom line is, if the players are smart, they will choose to hand the honor over to someone more deserving. Whether that be Santonio Holmes, Heath Miller, Justin Hartwig, or anyone else, Roethlisberger should be excluded from the list.
Or simply slap the badge solely onto the back of a true, distinguished leader—one that has remained constant throughout a playing career spanning portions of three decades. A player who has decorated Pittsburgh's record books and stands to rewrite several more until his playing days are over.
Ward deserves a co-captain better than Roethlisberger—or he doesn't deserve one at all.