PITTSBURGH — Former Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison and wide receiver Hines Ward are among the the 28 modern-era semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2023.
Harrison is a semifinalist in his first season of eligibility. Ward has now been a semifinalist for seven consecutive seasons.
The 28 semifinalists were selected from a group of 129 nominees announced in September. Former Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton, linebackers Chad Brown and James Farrior and kicker Gary Anderson were nominated but did not advance to the semifinalist portion of the voting.
In addition to the two Steelers, cornerback Eric Allen, defensive end Jared Allen, tackle Willie Anderson, defensive back Ronde Barber, wide receiver Anquan Boldin, wide receiver Henry Ellard, guard Jahri Evans, linebacker London Fletcher, defensive end Dwight Freeney, safety Rodney Harrison, kick returner Devin Hester, wide receiver Torry Holt, wide receiver Andre Johnson, cornerback Albert Lewis, defensive end Robert Mathis, cornerback Darrelle Revis, wide receiver Steve Smith, running back Fred Taylor, tackle Joe Thomas, linebacker Zach Thomas, defensive end DeMarcus Ware, running back Ricky Watters, wide receiver Reggie Wayne, defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, linebacker Patrick Willis and safety Darren Woodson advanced as semifinalists.
The list of semifinalists will be trimmed to 15 finalists before the vote in February. Those 15 modern era finalists will be considered alongside coaches and contributor’s committee finalist Don Coryell and senior committee finalists Chuck Howler, Joe Klecko and Ken Riley. Five modern era candidates will be selected out of the group of 15.
Harrison is one of the team’s most legendary outside linebackers. Originally joining the team as an undrafted free agent in 2002, it took him years to catch on with the squad full time and Harrison considered giving up football. But starting in 2004, he was a long-term fixture of the Pittsburgh defense that won Super Bowls XL and XLIII. Harrison had the most memorable play of the latter game, with a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown just before the half serving as one of the top plays in NFL history. Harrison was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2008, he was a four-time All-Pro and a five-time Pro Bowler.
Ward’s 14-year NFL career was spent carving out a role as one of the most physical players on the Steelers, even as a wide receiver. The Korean-born Ward won two Super Bowls with Pittsburgh and was the MVP of Super Bowl XL after his game-sealing touchdown reception. His impact as a blocker was so well-known that the NFL changed its rules to prevent blindside blocks downfield, which has come to be known as the Hines Ward Rule. Ward was named to four Pro Bowls, was a three-time All-Pro and is on the Steelers’ All-Time Team. He is currently serving as the head coach of the XFL’s San Antonio Brahmas.
The Hall of Fame selection committee will announce the inductees during the NFL Honors telecast on Feb. 9. Enshrinement will take place in a ceremony at the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio on Aug. 5.