As much as it pains me to say it, one of my favorite players of all time is being eased out of the Pittsburgh Steelers' offense.
Hines Ward, the Steelers' all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards, is nearing the end of his illustrious career. He has 960 receptions totaling 11,960 yards and 85 touchdowns.
With the Pittsburgh Steelers' young wide receivers Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders emerging as the best receiving corps in the National Football League, there isn't much room left for an aging Hines Ward.
Still a great teammate, team leader and a fan favorite, Ward has only 26 catches for 258 yards and two touchdowns this season. He left Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals with an ankle injury, and Antonio Brown had a career day.
Ward was never great at anything, but he was good at everything.
He wasn't overly fast or quick, and didn't run the greatest routes. He certainly isn't tall, listed at 6'0", and I think they gave him an inch or so.
What he did have was heart and determination, and a willingness to do it all. Whether he was taking a bone-jarring hit over the middle or delivering one to a linebacker, Ward always had a smile on his face.
He will smile all the way to the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, someday too.