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fordfixer
05-03-2009, 04:51 PM
Ward's goal: Retire as a Steeler
He would become team's third Pro Bowl player since 1993 to accomplish feat
Sunday, May 03, 2009
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09123/967334-66.stm

Hines Ward already put himself among the select Steelers as a Super Bowl MVP, the only four-time Pro Bowl receiver and the holder of most of the team records for his position.

His new goal, and one he believes he will accomplish because of his new contract, is to retire with the Steelers. That has become a rare feat in the free agency era that began in 1993.

If Ward, who is 33 and under contract for the next five seasons, ends his playing days with the Steelers, he will become only the third Pro Bowl player in the past 16 years to wear only their uniform.

The others were center Dermontti Dawson and nose tackle Joel Steed.

Every other Steelers Pro Bowl player whose career included all or part of the free agency era once was the property of another NFL team, either before he came to the Steelers or after he left them.

The list includes 23 Pro Bowl players, not counting some of those still active. They range from newly elected Hall of Famer Rod Woodson to others on their 75th anniversary team such as Jerome Bettis, Greg Lloyd, Tunch Ilkin, Joey Porter, Alan Faneca, Carnell Lake and Gary Anderson. It includes team record-holders such as Barry Foster (single-season rushing) and Jason Gildon (career sacks), and NFL all-decade selections such as Levon Kirkland.

Among them are Pro Bowl quarterbacks Neil O'Donnell and Kordell Stewart.

Foster came the closest to not pulling on another uniform because, technically, he never played for another team. But he was in Carolina's training camp before being cut and signed another contract with Cincinnati before retiring a few days later.

"It's a big honor for me to start my career here and evidently end my career here," Ward said at the weekend's minicamp. "I couldn't be happier."

Ward needs 220 yards to become the first Steelers receiver to reach 10,000. He also owns the team record with 800 receptions. He has the top three individual receiving seasons in team history, led by his 112 catches in 2002. His 72 career touchdown receptions are most in club history.

What's left? Retire as a Steelers player, which has become one of the toughest accomplishments in the free agency era. It was much more common for it to happen before 1993. The team's fourth Super Bowl victory was followed the next few years by a string of retirements for those Hall of Famers who played for only the Steelers -- Terry Bradshaw, Joe Greene, Jack Ham, Lynn Swann, Mel Blount, Jack Lambert and John Stallworth. But even Franco Harris and Mike Webster did not retire as Steelers.

It was strange to see Harris' great career end in a Seattle Seahawks uniform or that of Webster's concluding in Kansas City Chiefs red.

Ward said he does not want that to happen to him.

"I couldn't even see myself in another uniform but a Steeler uniform," he said. "I'm happy to be here, I'm glad the contract situation got solved and hopefully we can go out and sign other guys and let their careers end here as well."

While only two Pro Bowl players spent their entire careers with the Steelers since 1993, there are a handful of candidates to do so on the current team. The strongest possibilities of the Pro Bowlers are Ward, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Smith. Others include Willie Parker, Troy Polamalu and Casey Hampton. Among those who have not made a Pro Bowl but have been good players and could stay are Heath Miller, Ike Taylor, Deshea Townsend, who will turn 34 in September, and Brett Keisel. Linebacker James Harrison, who played in NFL Europe, once was Baltimore's property although he never played for the Ravens.

Not only is it rare for an individual to be a Steelers player for life in this era, Ward's career did not begin as if he would reach that status. A third-round draft pick in 1998, he had to watch the Steelers draft receivers in the first round in 1999 and 2000 and then suffer the indignity of losing his starting job to rookie Plaxico Burress before the first training camp practice.

"Especially for how my career started, this is a huge accomplishment," he said of his enduring play with the team. "For me, I really don't want to put on another uniform. That was never my intention, never my goal. To assure I will always wear a black and gold uniform, I'm relieved.

"When I leave this game, I want to be one of those guys people say, 'He was a hell of a Steeler.' I know my legacy will be a Steeler for life. The two match. It goes together."
Ed Bouchette can be reached at ebouchette@post-gazette.com.

RuthlessBurgher
05-03-2009, 05:08 PM
I had forgotten about some of the post-Steeler escapades for a few of those guys, such as Tunch as a Packer or Kirkland as a Seahawk.

As for the list of other possible candidates to retire Steelers listed in the article, Willie and Casey are the least likely, since folks on this board have already traded or dumped those guys 20 times over it seems. Not so with Ben, Aaron, Troy, etc.

NorthCoast
05-03-2009, 07:21 PM
It will be a sad day in the 'Burgh when Ward wraps it up. He was second to none with his passion for the game and his smile even after a brutal hit was infectious. Some may not realize how much Ward was risking when he played with the injured knee in the Superbowl but he would not be denied the opportunity. He did what he knew he had to do if he wanted to retire a Steeler, he signed a cap friendly extension. I would have a hard time envisioning what he would look like in another uniform.

RuthlessBurgher
05-04-2009, 09:55 AM
It will be a sad day in the 'Burgh when Ward wraps it up. He was second to none with his passion for the game and his smile even after a brutal hit was infectious. Some may not realize how much Ward was risking when he played with the injured knee in the Superbowl but he would not be denied the opportunity. He did what he knew he had to do if he wanted to retire a Steeler, he signed a cap friendly extension. I would have a hard time envisioning what he would look like in another uniform.

Like this:

http://chronicle.augusta.com/images/headlines/010898/hines_ward.jpg

http://budrific15.tripod.com/bulldogward.gif

Or even this:

http://images.usatoday.com/sports/_photos/2006/01/30/in-ward.jpg

MeetJoeGreene
05-04-2009, 11:18 AM
I am greatly surprised that Crash, having been poking around this site, has been able to resist commenting on a positive Hines Ward thread.