AFC North: Hot Read

Hall of Fame monitor: Steelers

January, 8, 2009
1/08/09
11:28
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

Ward

Hines Ward, WR
Body of work:
Ward could be an extremely challenging case for the Hall of Fame committee. He has plenty of hardware, including four Pro Bowls a Super Bowl ring and Super Bowl MVP. But Ward played his entire career with a run-oriented team, so his numbers will not stand up to other elite receivers of his era such as Randy Moss, Terrell Owens and Marvin Harrison. Yet Ward will go down as perhaps the toughest and most devastating blocker at his position in NFL history. The hardcore football voters will consider Ward's total package, while the number crunchers may shy away.

Unfinished business: Without superior statistics, Ward could help his case with another Super Bowl title. He already has longevity going for him with 11 years in the league, and his consistency throughout his career will be a big plus. Ward is expected to put up solid numbers for several more seasons, so expect that also to sway some of the swing voters who may currently have doubts.

Projected chance: Yes, but close
Polamalu
Troy Polamalu, S
Body of work: Polamalu has already done a lot in six seasons. He won a Super Bowl his third year in the league and has five Pro Bowls and 17 career interceptions. Although Polamalu is just now reaching the prime of his career, he will already go down as one of the league's most versatile and unique players. A strong second half of his career to match the first half should land him in Canton.

Unfinished business: Polamalu already has a ring, but it would behoove him to get one as the unquestioned leader and focal point of the Steelers' defense, which he currently is at this point. His hard-nosed style of play also lends itself to injuries, so it will be important for him to avoid the injury bug. Polamalu has missed eight regular-season games the past three seasons.

Projected chance: Looking good

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