CINCINNATI, OH - NOVEMBER 13: Rashard Mendenhall #34 of the Pittsburgh Steelers dives into the end zone for a touchdown as Chris Crocker #42 and Kelly Jennings #23 of the Cincinnati Bengals defend during play at Paul Brown Stadium on November 13, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Steelers won 24-17. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Steelers wide receiver picked a bad day to announce his retirement. As he said a tearful goodbye to the city of Pittsburgh, his teammates and the rest of the team's staff, more NFL fans across the nation were captivated by the Peyton Manning introduction press conference in Denver. The media frenzy that surrounded Manning and the impending trade of Tim Tebow that comes with No.18's arrival took over the airwaves while Ward was reading his statement.
Though "Steeler Nation" will miss the 14-year veteran receiver, nearly everyone associated with the city of CIncinnati and the Bengals will not. Chris Crocker, the outspoken safety for the Bengals, didn't pull any punches today when speaking about Ward and the way he played the game. Say what you want about Crocker's play as of late, but he's always been one to bring swagger to the locker room.
"He's probably the first receiver to make blocking such a big part of his game. He was an all-around receiver," Crocker said. "He was a dirty player, but he made a lot of plays. He tried to end people's careers and that's not the way the game is supposed to be played."
That's easy to understand from our point of view. We've seen Ward derail the beginning of Keith Rivers' career with a questionable (at best) blindside block, as well as other numerous instances where Ward would attempt to spear players around the league. Still, the guy's toughness was admired by fans and players around the league and Crocker recognized it. Now that Ward has officially retired, the obligatory Hall of Fame debate has sparked and with 1,000 receptions and two Super Bowl titles, Ward makes a worthy candidate.
They used him perfectly to suit his abilities and he was a big-time player for them. Some people might think of him as a borderline Hall-of-Famer, but I think the fact he helped them win two Super Bowls and all the things he did for that team make him deserving."
We'll see if Crocker is right about Ward making it to Canton or not. With names like Cris Carter and Andre Reed still waiting for their turn and upcoming players like Marvin Harrison, Terrell Owens and Randy Moss (unless he goes against all odds and plays more than one or two more years) likely becoming eligible around the same time as Ward, it will be difficult for him. But, we agree with Crocker--Ward won't be missed but his respectable career can't be ignored.