What a bittersweet moment we could see in Dallas if the Steelers win. Just like the "Bus" before him, if the Steelers win the Super Bowl will we see Hines Ward call it a day on his legendary, Hall of Fame career? I think so.
After all, it will be Hines' third Super Bowl ring. He already has a Super Bowl MVP on his mantle. He already owns most of the Steelers receiving records. He is generally acclaimed as the best blocking receiver of all time. All of this adds up to an almost automatic first-round selection to the Hall of Fame in Canton.
Yes, there will be some who say Hines is not worthy of a first-round Hall of Fame selection. Some say he is a dirty player. Some say that his numbers don't compare to Jerry Rice, TO and some of the other receivers of this era.
But Hines played the bulk of his career on a predominantly running team. Until Ben Roethlisberger came along, he really didn't play with a QB who could throw the ball well. Accomplishing what he has accomplished given those facts, there is no doubt that Hines should be a first-ballot HOF inductee.
But why retire now? Why not? What else does Hines have to prove? Another Super Bowl maybe? Perhaps. But like Bettis, John Elway and others before them, going out on top is a great way to cap a legendary career.
Also, when better time for Hines to retire than now when it looks like the Steelers are stacked at receiver like no time since the Swann/Stallworth years? This year saw the torch passed to Mike Wallace as the leading receiver on the Steelers.
In only his second year, it is obvious that Wallace could give the Steelers the speedy deep threat that they haven't had in a long time. But more than that, Wallace is not afraid to go over the middle and make the tough catches too. He has already stepped up as a leader among the other young receivers on the team as well. Ward's mentoring has left a career long impression on Wallace of how to be a Steeler.
Behind Wallace the Steelers seem to have struck draft-pick gold with Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio "AB" Brown. These two kids remind me of Swann and Stallworth like no one else. They both have big careers in front of them in the NFL.
So with one receiver in only his second year and two rookies, the Steelers seem set at wide receiver for years to come. On top of that, Randle El is still around as the veteran and Limas Sweed comes back from his Achilles injury next year.
Hines has schooled all of these young receivers on what it means to be an NFL player and more than that, what it means to be a Steeler. They will remember his words and he can always come to training camp and teach the next generation. His legacy will live on with this great new crop of Steelers wideouts.
So Hines can rest easy. He would be leaving at the top of the heap and leaving the Steelers in a great position to carry on his legacy of great Steelers wideouts.
As much as I would hate to see him leave, it would be the best time for Hines to ride off with all of his awards and records at the top of the heap, as a No. 1, a legend among legends and perhaps the greatest Steelers receiver of all time!
If you are a true Steelers fan, you can't blame him and would only say, "Hines, thanks for the memories."
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