How the Santonio Holmes Trade Affects Hines Ward

Ryan CookFeatured ColumnistApril 13, 2010

PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 06:  Hines Ward #86 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on during the game against the Oakland Raiders on December 6, 2009 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

"For the times, they are a changin'." -Bob Dylan

When Bob Dylan originally wrote that piece in 1964, I am almost certain that he didn't have NFL trades on his mind.  However, given that the song has lasted the distance, it damn sure describes the Pittsburgh Steelers situation pretty well.

Throughout Hines Ward's 11-year career, he has seen his fair share of changes and additions to the Pittsburgh Steelers roster.  Whether it's watching a once young and talented Willie Parker excel toward a Super Bowl trophy and then fall to second string, or seeing veteran and highly respected "ground-and-pound" running back Jerome "The Bus" Bettis retire, Hines Ward has been in black and gold through it all.

Now, though given the Pittsburgh Steelers recent NFL shakeup, Hines Ward's terrible towel is raised high and above his head, as he watches his once Super Bowl savvy team fall to pieces in a matter of a day or two.

Okay, so the Steelers haven't exactly fallen to pieces just yet, but with Ben Roethlisberger in serious legal trouble and Santonio Holmes departing to the New York Jets, it's fair to say that the Steelers have taken a step in the opposite direction as of late, right?


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Although the media seems to be surrounding Santonio Holmes and Ben Roethlisberger right now, there is of course the matter of the rest of the Steelers roster.  With many players yet to be interviewed on their thoughts and opinions, I can't help but wonder what one of the key veteran players on the Steelers depth chart has to say about all of the recent controversy.

Is Hines Ward frightened, is he nervous or is he the same old, hearty wide receiver that we have grown to know over a decade? 

Well it's tough to say, but if one thing is still true, it's that Hines Ward is the No. 1 guy about town, and it is a role that suits him just fine.

Now that Santonio Holmes is out of the way and firmly in Rex Ryan's hands, it is important to realize that a weight the size of an elephant is now resting on Hines Ward's shoulders. 

In 2009, the Pittsburgh Steelers struggled offensively. 

It is no secret that the Steelers didn't appear to be the strong and stable team they were a year ago during their Super Bowl-winning season, and although they showed area's of brilliance against teams like Green Bay and Baltimore, for the most part, the Steelers were like Tiger Woods at The Masters—simply out of rhythm.

Hines Ward on the other hand, still managed to post decent stats while the Steelers were struggling.  He had 1,167 yards and six touchdowns, solid stats for a wide receiver that is going through the later stages of his lengthy career, and to tell the truth, other veteran wide receivers like Terrell Owens could only dream of having such brilliance at this point in time.

But how will Hines Ward really do now that the 'superstar' type wide receiver is gone from Pittsburgh, and the expectation of touchdowns now lies solely on his back? 

To be honest, it's tough to say right now, and although Pittsburgh fans have the utmost faith in ole' reliable No. 86, a fair point could be made as to why Hines could fail.

Look at it this way, if Ben Roethlisberger does somehow get suspended for at least a month in the regular season, the Pittsburgh Steeler offense is sure to suffer.  Yes, backup quarterback Dennis Dixon steps in, but we all know due to Ben Roethlisberger's concussion absence just how Dixon fairs when touchdowns are needed.

Therefore, I look toward the draft.  Could Pittsburgh use another quarterback?  Sure. 

But more importantly they could use another wide receiver that could partially carry the load with Hines Ward, and offer Ben Roethlisberger or Dennis Dixon the opportunity to consider a second option such as Jordan Shipley, to take the play down the field.

Whichever way you look at it, Pittsburgh isn't the same team, and fans can't continue to keep living in the past.  Hines Ward is still the go-to guy in Pittsburgh, and with the fans realizing that, it is now time to either draft or realize that the Steelers' hopes may rest on whatever brilliance Hines Ward still has left in the tank.

Six touchdowns last year was great, but with up-and-coming AFC teams such as Baltimore, Houston, Miami, Tennessee, and the ever-so-present Indianapolis Colts and San Diego Chargers around, having only one go-to wide receiver could cost Pittsburgh dearly in the long run, and could ultimately hand them another 9-7 season.

Not only is this a major concern, but the simple fact still remains that Mike Tomlin is beginning to undergo scrutiny, and although he has delivered a Lombardi trophy to Pittsburgh, I can assure you another below average season in terms of expectations won't be tolerated.

Pittsburgh fans, don't worry just yet. 

It's a long offseason, but if anyone can get it done it is Hines Ward.  If all goes right and the stars align, Pittsburgh may be fine.  But as the old adage goes, "It's better to be safe than sorry." 

The draft, free agency, or a trade, the Steelers may soon be in hot water if they aren't careful.

Don't forget to follow Ryan Cook on Twitter, http://twitter.com/RyanCook13

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