When the Steelers went to Super Bowl XL, it was going to be the final game in the career of Jerome Bettis.
Win or lose, Bettis had a hard time even coming back to play that season, as he knew that the Bus didn't have the tread to be the lead running back.
The game was in his hometown of Detroit, and prior to the season the Steelers were believed to have a legitimate shot at going to the Super Bowl.
Ben Roethlisberger, in his rookie season, took the Steelers to the AFC Championship Game, only to lose to the New England Patriots. Ben promised Bettis that if he returned for another year, he would take him to the Super Bowl.
Ben did, the Steelers won and Bettis went out on top, like many people wish they could and very few ever do.
Here we now are, five years later, and the Steelers are on the verge of another Super Bowl appearance. This time, the most popular player since Bettis, Hines Ward, is pondering calling it a career, regardless of the outcome of the game.
Hines Ward recently posted this question on his Facebook page:
With the Super Bowl comes tons more media attention. The most asked question yesterday was, if we win the SuperBowl would that be my last game ever. With the potential lockout on the horizon, I was at a loss for words. I keep asking myself can I take a whole year off and play an 18-game season if necessary? I mean I stayed in shape this year, made it thru the season healthy, and contributed value to my team. I still have individual goals and want to help the city of Pittsburgh and my team win as many Super Bowls as possible. So, I would like to play as long as I can still make a difference. Just curious: what do you fans think?
Ward already has two Super Bowl championships, with a Super Bowl MVP award to go along with it. He has been to the top of the mountain, and he knows the work that is required to get there.
Add to that the possible lockout and an 18-game schedule when he comes back, and that might be more than Ward is willing to go through.
Ward is a once in a lifetime type of player. There are not many people in the NFL that can say that they play with the passion of Hines Ward.
Fans of other teams call him the "dirtiest player in the NFL," but all Steelers Nation sees is a hard-hitting, defensive player that happens to play on the offense. With crushing blocks, Ward is someone that every team the Steelers play has to prepare for.
These things alone make Ward an amazing player. Now, add to that that Hines Ward leads Steelers WRs in history in most of the important statistics. Receptions (954), yards (11,702) and TD receptions (83) are all owned by Hines Ward.
He is a leader on the field and an inspiration off it. Many people in the comments of Ward's Facebook question speak as to how he is the role model for their sons.
My response to Hines Ward as to whether he should retire or not is simply to tell him to let God guide him and take him where he needs to be.
If Ward does decide, while holding his third Lombardi Trophy, to call it a career, Steelers Nation should be sad that he is going to go. But like Bettis, know that he went out on top, which is more than I can say for a lot of other people.
Good luck, Hines Ward, whatever you decide to do.