The Pittsburgh Steelers franchise have 29 individuals enshrined in Canton as members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The storied organization has been the home to many great players, coaches and scouts for years. While we know Maurkice Pouncey and recently retired, Ben Roethlisberger are on their way to being inducted, a couple other names, wide receivers in particular, are going to have their chance, but may not get in.
Antonio Brown and Hines Ward are the two best receivers for the Steelers in the 21st century and maybe all time. While most of Steeler Nation holds somewhat of a grudge against Brown and an affinity for Ward, the fan base isn’t voting for who gets in.
Let’s play a game and assume only one of these star wideouts can be inducted in Canton one day. Who deserves it more, bias aside?
Let’s start with Ward’s case vs Brown.
Ward is the all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns in Steeler history. His 10,000 receptions are good for 14th in NFL history. While a receiver’s blocking tendencies aren’t necessarily weighed statistically, #86 was the best blocking wideout of his generation and that should hold weight in his candidacy. Ward was also the MVP of Super Bowl XL. The biggest downfall here are his personal accolades. He played 13 seasons and was only elected to four Pro Bowls while receiving second team All-Pro honors three times. Hall of Fame voting tends to sincerely value how players were honored during their career. Ward is up against guys like Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Anquan Boldin, Steve Smith, and Tory Holt. None of those guys played as many career games as Ward and all have similar or better stats and accolades than him. One of the biggest edges he has are Super Bowl victories. That group combined only has three compared to Ward’s two plus an MVP to go along with it. He beats Brown in that category as well.
Speaking of the playoffs, Ward played in 18 games catching 88 passes for 1,181 yards and 10 touchdowns. His 1,181 yards are good for ninth all-time. Four of the eight in front of him are already Hall of Famers and the other four are Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce and Wayne. Ward’s case is strong, but he faces fierce competition before he can get past the semi-finalist stage.
Brown’s case against Ward
Brown is even more intriguing than Ward. He is second all-time in the three major categories Ward leads in Steelers history. Throughout his career, however, he has more receiving yards than Ward and is only 72 receptions behind him. Brown put up these numbers in 71 less career games. The former Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver was able to get his Super Bowl ring in 2021. He pairs that with seven Pro Bowl trips and four first team All-Pro selections. Brown is just two touchdowns shy of tying Ward’s 85 regular season touchdowns.
Brown has 59 receptions, 918 yards and five touchdowns in 13 career postseason games. Ward gets the advantage here, but he did play in five more playoff games. This in a way, is a coin flip right now. This could change depending on if Brown gets another shot in the NFL , continues to play and at an elite level.
With that said, Brown’s off the field antics and constant drama certainly leave a bad taste in my mouth. We have seen throughout professional sports recently that voters in these situations are valuing what happens off the field and in the locker room. Just statistics and accolades aren’t good enough to get you inducted into the Hall of Fame. Brown is a heck of a talent, but has he made too many enemies to warrant an induction? Certainly, that is my train of thought.
Ward is my favorite Steeler ever to wear the black and gold. I would love to see him get in instead of Brown. If only one can get in, let’s hope #86 gets the nod. I think, as of now, he deserves it more. Both face an uphill battle, but for different reasons. Ward doesn’t have the personal recognition typical of a Hall of Famer, but has the statistics, Super Bowls and was certainly the best blocking wide receiver of his time. Brown has the numbers, accolades, and Super Bowl, but has he damaged his reputation to the point where if I were a voter, I am giving the nod to Ward if I had to choose between the two.
If you could only choose one, who are you electing to the Pro Football Hall of Fame? Let us know in the comments below!