By Joe Starkey, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Thursday, March 1, 2012
Put a face on the Steelers' modern history, one that represents not only the franchise's glorious achievement but also its attitude and aura.
Art Rooney and his stogie would be an obvious choice, as would Jack Lambert and his toothless, raging scowl.
Mean Joe Greene's glare or Chuck Noll's pensive stare would work, as well.
But there is at least one more mug that deserves special mention: Hines Ward's.
In a smiling pose, of course. Was there any other?
The topic arises in the wake of the Steelers announcing they will release Hines — it doesn't seem right to refer to him as "Ward," does it? — before March 13.
It is the right move, even though Hines made it clear he'd be willing to play for allowance money. One of the reasons the Steelers perpetually reload, as opposed to rebuild, is that they remove emotion when making business decisions.
They do not believe Hines merits a spot on their roster. Therefore, he is finished as a Steeler after 14 incredible seasons.
In some 40 years of watching football, I can't say I've seen a more complete player. By complete, I mean productive, consistent, tough — a factor on nearly every snap.
I don't know that I've seen many wide receivers crack down on defensive ends. Haven't seen any break a linebacker's jaw. Never saw one besides Hines light up Ed Reed and Bart Scott in the same game.
Come to think of it, I never saw one lose a shoe and outrun DeAngelo Hall, either.
That was the big lie about Hines — that he wasn't real athletic. True, he was no blazer. But the man played multiple positions at an SEC school (Georgia), including quarterback, and even in his final decrepit season was leaping over Titans safety Michael Griffin to score.
Off the field, Hines spoke his mind. He was a self-promoter, for sure, but at the same time the ultimate team player. You could ask any of the team's younger receivers about how Hines mentored them even as his playing time shrunk.
Hines told us so many times, in so many settings, that "nobody thought I could do it." The saying became a punch line.
But you know what? It was true. When Hines walked into Steelers headquarters in 1998, a third-round pick without an ACL in his left knee, barely 6 feet tall, I'm guessing nobody looked at him and said, "That guy's going to put up better numbers than Swann and Stallworth."
Read more: Starkey: Hines a Steelers legend - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/columnists/starkey/s_784246.html#ixzz1nsQbFNjQ