PITTSBURGH — Former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward has been named a semifinalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2024, the eighth straight year the he has been nominated for enshrinement to football’s highest honor.
What has made Ward more often a bridesmaid than a bride is likely his lack of statistical prowess.
Ward finished his career with 12,083 receiving yards. There are 12 receivers with more all-time yardage that are not in the Hall of Fame.
Of the fellow 2024 semifinalists, Anquan Boldin (13,779 yards), Torry Holt (13,382 yards), Andre Johnson (14,185 yards), Steve Smith Sr. (14,731) and Reggie Wayne (14,345) all have more than 1,000 more receiving yards than Ward.
He was never an All-Pro, and only a four-time Pro Bowler. According to the Pro Football Reference Hall of Fame Monitor Score, which combines statistical contributions and individual awards into a formula that compares to how previous votes have gone, an average Hall of Fame wide receiver has a score of 104. Ward has a 74.67. All of Boldin, Holt, Johnson, Smith and Wayne have higher scores.
So why vote for Ward? Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was asked, as he said that Ward’s career cannot be defined by statistics, and he compared him to former Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety John Lynch, who Tomlin also coached.
“Stats are just a component of the story in terms of the type of player that he was,” Tomlin said. “Ask the men that played football against them, in their generation. Their impact on the game, how the game was played and in some instances, how the game was officiated.”
Lynch was elected to the Hall of Fame in the Class of 2021. His Hall of Fame monitor score was 64.28, the fourth-lowest of any defensive back enshrined in Canton.
Tomlin referenced the way Ward’s physicality changed the NFL rulebook. The so-called Hines Ward Rule was put into effect to take his vicious blindside blocks out of the game.
“Hines was a football player first and a receiver second and I used to say that to describe him all the time, just because of the ridiculous consistency of his toughness: in the passing game, the running game, running the football after the catch, blocking, he is well-deserving of consideration and I hope it happens for him this time.”