Is Hines Ward the next Steeler to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
(Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
This past weekend in Canton, Troy Polamalu and Alan Faneca both mentioned during their speeches that Hines Ward belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, as well. Ward was Faneca's presenter, which has been a long tradition for the Steelers when it comes to helping promote a player for the Hall. Lynn Swann had John Stallworth as his presenter for induction in 2001, Rod Woodson advocated for Dick LeBeau during his Hall of Fame speech in 2009, and Tony Dungy had Donnie Shell present him for induction in 2016.
Stallworth and LeBeau made the Hall of the Fame in the following respective years, and Shell is a member of the 2020 Centennial Class. So, is Ward the next Steeler in line to make it to Canton? During the broadcast of the Class of 2021 enshrinement ceremony on Sunday, Steve Wyche of the NFL Network said he talked to four people in a roundtable discussion that believe Ward is a Hall of Famer.
Ward is the Steelers' all-time leader in receptions (1,000), receiving yards (12,083) and touchdown receptions (85), along with being the MVP of Super Bowl XL, but many believe that he's a borderline Hall of Famer at best.
However, it should not be ignored that Ward is the greatest blocking wide receiver of all time. Polamalu shared a great anecdote in his Hall of Fame speech of how Ward introduced him to the NFL in their first padded practice.
"My first real introduction into the NFL was at our first padded practice when Hines Ward and I hit," Polamalu said. "It was my legs that subsequently buckled and he held me up like a toddler and said, ‘I’m not like any other wide receiver.' "No doubt Hines. I look forward to sharing the stage with you one day."
Ward is in a log jam of wide receivers that have a case to be in the Hall of Fame, as Brandon Marshall, Torry Holt, Anquan Boldin, Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne and Steve Smith have similar numbers to him. It might take a long time as it did for Shell, but Ward certainly deserves a bust in Canton.
L.C. Greenwood also belongs in the Hall of Fame. And thanks to decades of research by John Turney and Nick Webster, Greenwood's case for Canton has been helped tremendously. Pro Football Reference updated its site to add sack data all the way back to 1960, 22 years before it became an officially recorded statistic. And Greenwood now ranks second in Steelers history in sacks with 78.
Joe Greene is credited with 77.5 sacks. Dwight White had 55 sacks and Ernie Holmes had 39.5 sacks. A total of 250 sacks for the Steel Curtain. It should also be noted that the team's back then ran the ball significantly more than they threw it, so these newfound stats make it even more impressive. It shows just how dominant the Steel Curtain was.
Only Greene is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, however. How does arguably the greatest defensive line in NFL history only have one Hall of Famer?
Greenwood was a six-time Pro Bowler and was named first-team All-Pro twice in his 13-year career with the Steelers. He's also a member of the NFL's 1970s All-Decade Team and Steelers All-Time Team. In addition, Greenwood is one of 22 players who won four Super Bowls with the Steelers in the 1970s.
At the Pro Football Hall of Fame Gold Jacket ceremony this past Friday, Shell paid tribute to his former teammate the late L.C. Greenwood by wearing gold Jordan 1 shoes.
Shell posted a photo of himself wearing the gold shoes on Instagram and captioned the post, "Is it the shoes??? Special shout out to one of my former teammates and hopefully future Hall of Famer L.C. Greenwood."
During his career, Greenwood famously wore gold cleats so he would be more visible for statisticians to properly create him for tackles.
Shell had to wait 28 years to get into the Hall, and he believes Greenwood should be right there with him in Canton.
“It would be a tremendous award for him and his family, and also for me,” Shell said during his Pro Football Hall of Fame press conference last month via Brian Batko of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “L.C. was very unusual. He was about 6-8, about 260, but we played a 4-3 defense and he was just as good a run-defender as a pass rusher. A lot of people don't realize that. I played on his side, the strong safety, and Jack Ham was the outside linebacker and L.C. was the defensive end. He played the run just as well as he was tremendous as a pass rusher.”
If it's not Ward or Greenwood as the next Steeler to be enshrined into football immortality, then Ben Roethlisberger would be the next in line 5-7 years from now depending on when he retires.