LATROBE – Even if Hines Ward puts up the same numbers he did last season, when he put up some of the lowest numbers in 11 years, Ward will move into the unmistakable pantheon of all-time greats.
Ward would have 1,013 catches (8th), 12,457 yards (16th) and 88 touchdowns (10th).
“I think that puts him in the Hall of Fame, first ballot,” said Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. “Two Super Bowl rings, MVP, thousand catches, all of Swann’s and Stallworth’s records, I think that legitimizes him. I think he already is without it, but I think that legitimizes him.
“And Hines needs something,” Arians continued. “He’s always got to have a chip on his shoulder or a goal just to keep him rolling. I love when he’s frosty and he’s got a chip on his shoulder.”
Well, color Hines frosty. When asked about the 46 catches he needs for 1,000, he turned blue with excitement.
“That’s a personal goal,” Ward said. “That’s like the 3,000th hit, the 600th home run.”
Only seven NFL players have caught 1,000 passes: Jerry Rice (1,549), Marvin Harrison (1,102), Cris Carter (1,101), Tim Brown (1,094), Terrell Owens (1,078), Tony Gonzalez (1,069) and Isaac Bruce (1,024).
“It would be awesome to get a thousand catches and do it all for one organization,” Ward said. “It’s not like I’m in a prolific passing offense, or playing in a dome. I think it’s just a milestone of the consistency I’ve had over my whole career, and just being there. But that would be huge. I can’t lie about that. That is on the back of my mind.
“I want to win the Super Bowl, of course, but as far as individual goals, that’s something.”
But will he catch the necessary 46 passes? Is the 35-year-old slowing down too quickly? Arians doesn’t think so.
“He looks spryer than he did last year,” he said.
Is it due to his Dancing With The Stars?
“I think it was getting the knee cleaned out,” Arians said. “It swelled on him a lot last year. I think that’s helped. And losing a little weight through the dancing. I’m sure that dancing stuff tightened up his core. But he looks good.”
“I know I’m getting older and stuff like that,” said Ward. “But I’m in great condition. I look crisp out there. I feel good.”
Ward said he hopes to finish his contract, through the 2012 season, and then worry about whether he’ll retire.
But, that could change with a Super Bowl win.
“I don’t want to play for any other team,” he said. “I don’t want to be like Franco, his last year going to Seattle. I don’t want to do that. … I do want to win another Super Bowl. People were asking (at the last one), ‘Is this going to be your last one?’ It might have been. To win three Super Bowls, that’s crazy.”
More than eight Steelers have done that, but only seven players have ever caught 1,000 passes, and none came from a run-oriented team such as the Steelers. Ward would be the first.
Now that’s crazy.