WHAT A FALL FROM grace Hines Ward has had this year!
Not too long ago, he and partner Kym Johnson were going from talk show to talk show, showing off their newly won Mirror Ball Trophy for winning ABC’s ‘Dancing With The Stars.’
A few months later, he entered the preseason needing only a handful of catches to go over 1,000 for his career and was named an offensive captain for the seventh straight season.
Then something strange happened to Pyscho Ward’s star between late spring and last weekend, he was bumped from his pedestal as the Steelers’ ‘top’ wide receiver.
Even then, his spot was reserved in name and reputation only.
Third-year receiver Mike Wallace bumped him for the spot last year and cemented his place atop the hierarchy with a ton of 100-yard performances in the early portions of the season.
Second-year receiver Antonio Brown has catapulted Ward and is now starting opposite Wallace. Funny thing is Brown may have even bumped Wallace out of the top spot among the Steeler receivers with his performances over the past two weeks.
Wasn’t it just last year that Ward was still able to outrun much faster cornerbacks to the end zone or even to open areas in the zone defense?
It surely wasn’t too long ago that he was still considered the Steelers’ top receiver, but if it makes yinzers happy, he’s definitely the best Steelers receiver ever.
Better than Lynn Swann and better than John Stallworth.
That’s some pretty heady company, considering both Swann and Stallworth have been enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but like both former Steeler greats Ward has seen his better days.
This is evidenced by the fact that Ward played sparingly against Cincinnati last weekend despite Emmanuel Sanders and Arnaz Battle missing the game due to injuries. I think once Sanders returns from minor knee surgery here within the next few weeks Ward will move down the depth chart to at best No. 4 – maybe even fifth because Jerricho Cotchery seems to have taken hold of the fourth spot.
Enjoy Hines this year Steelers fans, because I don’t think he’ll be back next year, even though, he has one year remaining on his contract after the 2011 season.
I’ve been saying since August that Ward, Aaron Smith, James Harrison and James Farrior would be casualties of old age and the salary cap. Smith’s injury a few weeks ago kind of cemented his status in the grouping.
Ironically enough, that was back when Ward was still an important part of the Steelers offense and was still considered quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s go-to guy.
To Ward’s credit, he hasn’t said a peep in the newspapers, thru Twitter or on Facebook about wanting more playing time or anything like that.
Heck, he could be running around in spandex in front of the national media displaying his ‘skills’ like Terrell Owens did a few weeks back.
We need to be thankful for small miracles.
One of which is that we have Hines Ward to teach, Brown, Sanders and Wallace how to play the game, how to be leaders and most importantly to play with a chip on your shoulder.
The other is that in about 10-15 years, Ward will join Swann and Stallworth in Canton as the Steelers’ newest Hall of Famer!