For an eighth straight year, Hines Ward has been tabbed asfor induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. One of his former coaches, Mike Tomlin, is hoping that Ward's wait has ended this year when the committee selects up to five modern-era candidates for enshrinement in Canton, Ohio next summer.
Tomlin provided a unique perspective on Ward when asked about the former Steelers wide receiver being a semifinalist once again during his weekly press conference. Tomlin compared Ward to a defensive back he coached with the Buccaneers who had to wait several years before finally getting his call to Canton.
"Hines is like John Lynch to me," Tomlin said of Ward, who he coached from 2007-11. "I coached both guys. Stats don't tell their story. Ask the men that played football against them of that generation. Their impact on the game, how the game is played and in some instances how the game is officiated.
"Hines was a football player first and a receiver second, and I used to say that to describe him all the time because of just the ridiculous consistency of his toughness in the passing game, in the running game, running the football or after the catch or blocking.
"He is well-deserving of consideration and I hope it happens for him this time. I think if I'm gonna phrase this succinctly in terms of my experience and exposure, I feel similarly to how I felt about John Lynch. Stats are just a component of the story in terms of the type of player that he was."
Stats may not tell Ward's story, but the former third-round pick put up some pretty good numbers during his 14-year career. In fact, Ward is one of just two players in NFL history with at least 1,000 career catches, 12,000 receiving yards, 85 touchdowns and was also a Super Bowl MVP. The only other player to accomplish that feat is Jerry Rice.
Arguably the most physical wideout in league history, Ward is the Steelers' all-time career leader in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown receptions. He reached those heights despite playing in a run-first offense for the bulk of his career.
Along with his regular-season success, Ward was even better in the postseason. He caught 88 passes for 1,181 yards and 10 touchdowns in 18 playoff games. The highlight for Ward was Super Bowl XL, when he caught five passes for 123 yards and a score en route to winning MVP honors.
Ward has maintained a healthy perspective on the Hall of Fame. While he says that it would be the cherry on top of his career, Ward seems at peace with his legacy on the gridiron.
"Listen, I've gotten everything I wanted out of football,"earlier this year. "Played 14 years, I was blessed enough to play that long. I've been in Pro Bowls, I've played in three Super Bowls, I've won two. Super Bowl MVP. I've gotten everything that I've wanted. Looking back on it, I have no regrets, and if my name is called one day, it'll be a blessing to all the people who helped in my journey to get to where I'm at today. It'll just be a big party and saying thank you to to all those people who helped me throughout my career."
Ward is one of two former Steelers who Tomlin coached to make the cut as a modern-era semifinalist. The other, former Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison, has said recently that of pro football's highest honor.