Stats & Info: Hines Ward

Hines Ward's Hall of Fame credentials

March, 20, 2012

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
A third-round pick in 1998, Hines Ward played in three Super Bowls and had 1,000 career receptions.

Hall of Fame voting results in recent years seem to show that outstanding individual production (Cris Carter), even when combined with consistent team success (Andre Reed), no longer guarantee a wide receiver a bust in Canton.

But Hines Ward, the all-time leading receiver of a franchise that already has a pair of Hall-of-Fame wideouts, has as good a case as any receiver for a bust among the game’s greats.

His numbers are impressive in their own right: 1,000 receptions (eighth all-time), 12,083 receiving yards (18th) and 85 receiving touchdowns (T-13th).

Ward’s production as a pass-catcher is even more imposing when one considers that over the duration of his 14-season career, the Steelers were the NFL’s most run-heavy offense. Pittsburgh ran the ball on 48.8 percent of its plays from 1998-2011. No other team ran the ball on more than 47 percent of its snaps over that span.

More so than in any other sport, wins and losses aren’t attributable to a single player in football. But the Steelers' success with Ward on the roster can’t be discounted. During his career, the Steelers won 140 regular-season games, third-most behind the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts. Pittsburgh’s 12 postseason wins over that span were second to only New England.

There is also the matter of Ward’s two Super Bowl rings, and his strong play in the Steelers' Super Bowl XLV loss. The MVP of Super Bowl XL, Ward had 244 receiving yards in his three Super Bowl appearances, seventh-most ever in the Super Bowl. And only Jerry Rice (151) caught more passes than Ward (88) in postseason history.

Although catches, yards and touchdowns are the most important items on a wideouts Hall of Fame résumé, shouldn’t a receiver’s performance on running plays also be part of the equation?

It is here where Ward, regarded as one of the greatest blocking wide receivers in league history, differentiates himself from the group of receivers waiting on a call from Canton.

Ward’s blocking helped the Steelers rush for nearly 129 yards per game from 1998-2011, more than every team except the Denver Broncos and Jacksonville Jaguars. Even last season, when the 35-year-old Ward was on the field for fewer than half of the Steelers offensive plays, Pittsburgh’s rushing game was markedly better with Ward in the game. The Steelers averaged 5.3 yards per rush with Ward on the field compared to 4.1 with him on the sideline.

The line of wide receivers waiting for a spot in the Hall is long, but Ward’s career résumé on one of the league's most successful franchises could earn him a spot near the front.
The Denver Broncos won the AFC West and a playoff game in 2011 with Tim Tebow as their starting quarterback.

Peyton Manning
However, based on 10,000 season simulations by AccuScore, the 2011 Broncos -- with Tebow as their starting QB -- made the playoffs in only 17.1 percent of simulations. With Peyton Manning under center, not only would the Broncos have been favored to win the AFC West, but their playoff chances would have increased to 83.8.

AccuScore also projects that Manning would have thrown for 3,936 yards and 30 touchdowns.

Peyton's Payday
If the terms being reported are accurate, Manning would be the highest paid player in the NFL. His average annual salary of $19.2 million eclipses what New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady averages annually.

It's also nearly $3 million more than what younger brother Eli earns with the New York Giants ($16.3M).

Denver's Latest Odds
Denver initially opened at 75-to-1 odds to win the 2013 Pro Football Championship, but has made a remarkable jump since Monday’s announcement by Manning. According to MGM Resorts International, Denver moved on Monday to 10-to-1 after Manning instructed his agent to negotiate with the Broncos. That number now is at 8-to-1. Green Bay remains the favorite at 5-to-1.

2012 Milestones Within Reach
Manning has won a record four AP NFL MVP awards. Now that he’s a Bronco, Manning is the fifth different player (all quarterbacks) to join a new team after winning multiple MVP awards with one team. He’s the first to change teams since three-time MVP Brett Favre was traded from the Green Bay Packers to the New York Jets before the 2008 season.

The other three quarterbacks to change teams after winning multiple MVP awards with one team: Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana and Kurt Warner.

• Manning's next touchdown pass will be the 400th of his career, only Favre (508) and Dan Marino (420) have more in NFL history.

• Manning and Marino share the record for most 300-yard passing games with 63.

• He has 22 career games with at least four touchdown passes, one shy of the record held by Favre.

Class of '98
Manning and Hines Ward were drafted by the Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers, respectively, in 1998. Manning is about to become a Denver Bronco and Ward on Tuesday announced his retirement.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, there is only one player from the 1998 draft class who remains with the team that selected him: Bears long-snapper Patrick Mannelly, who was a sixth-round pick out of Duke.

Steelers run game not same without Ward

November, 10, 2011

ESPN Stats & Information
The Steelers have found success running behind Hines Ward this season

Hines Ward left the Pittsburgh Steelers game against the Baltimore Ravens with concussion-like symptoms after getting hit by Ray Lewis. His status for this Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals is up in the air.

If Ward is unavailable to play, it may have a greater impact on the Steelers’ running game than it does on its passing game.

Hines Ward
Ward has struggled with injuries this season and is averaging just 32.3 receiving yards per game. Since his second season in the NFL, Ward has never finished with a lower average per game.

But what does the loss of arguably the league’s best blocking receiver mean to the Steelers’ running game?

The Steelers tend to run in Ward’s direction regardless of which side of the field he is lined up on. When lined up on the right side of the field, Steelers running backs have rushed to the right or middle of the field 89.3 percent of the time this season. Likewise, when Ward lined up on the left, 73.8 percent of runs went to the left or middle.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, since 2007 the Steelers have averaged 119.4 yards per game when Ward plays. In 8 games without Ward in that span, they have averaged 101.0.
Stats and Info’s best notes, nuggets, and anecdotes from Super Bowl XLV, with the help of our video review crew.

• With the help of, we found that only one other game in NFL history ended with a 31-25 final score. The Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers by that score on September 28, 1952. It was also the first NFL Championship decided by exactly six points since 1958, when the Baltimore Colts defeated the New York Giants, 23-17 in overtime.

• Aaron Rodgers threw for 304 yards and three touchdowns. He’s the fourth quarterback to throw for at least 300 yards, with at least three touchdowns in a Super Bowl, joining Joe Montana, Steve Young, and Jake Delhomme.

Jordy Nelson
• Jordy Nelson finished with nine catches, 140 receiving yards and a touchdown. The only other players in Super Bowl history to match or better those totals are Ricky Sanders (Redskins, XXII), Jerry Rice (49ers, XXIII and XXIX) and Deion Branch (Patriots, XXXVIII).

Nelson was targeted seven times on passes more than 10 yards downfield in the Super Bowl, a single-game high for Nelson this season. Rodgers started going 0-for-2 on such passes to Nelson on Sunday, but completed four of his next five including the first touchdown of the game.

• Ben Roethlisberger's two interceptions give him five for his career in the Super Bowl, tied for the fifth-most career interceptions in Super Bowl history. The pass that Roethlisberger had intercepted and returned for a touchdown was the second interception this postseason that came when Roethlisberger threw a pass to the left side of the field. He only had one on 146 attempts to the left side in the regular season.

• Nick Collins' 37-yard interception return for a touchdown made this the third straight Super Bowl (and the seventh in the last 11) in which an interception was returned for a score. The Packers kept alive a historic streak. Teams that return an interception for a touchdown in the Super Bowl are now 11-0.

• The last three Super Bowls have also been games in which the losing team outgained the winning team.

• The Packers had 13 rushing attempts, tied with the St. Louis Rams (Super Bowl XXXIV) for fewest by a Super Bowl winner. The Rams and Packers also rank 1-2 in fewest yards rushing by a Super Bowl winner. Green Bay's 50 yards were 21 more than those Rams had.

Greg Jennings
• Greg Jennings is the third Packer with two receiving touchdowns in a Super Bowl, joining Max McGee (Super Bowl I) and Antonio Freeman (Super Bowl XXXII).

• Hines Ward, in a losing effort, had his 10th career postseason touchdown reception. He is the sixth player to have at least that many postseason touchdown catches, joining Jerry Rice (22), John Stallworth (12), Fred Biletnikoff (10), Antonio Freeman (10) and Randy Moss (10).

• Had Shaun Suisham made his 52-yard field goal attempt, with the Steelers trailing 21-17 in the fourth quarter, it would have been the second-longest in Super Bowl history. The odds were against Suisham from the start. Including playoffs, he is now 3-for-10 on attempts of 50 or more yards and hasn't made one since October 5, 2008 against the Eagles.

Chalkboard Stats: Big Ben's pump fake

January, 19, 2011

This week’s edition of Chalkboard Stats examines a key third-down play from the Week 15 clash between the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers.

Ben Roethlisberger connected with Hines Ward to convert a crucial 3rd-and-17, a similar down-and-distance as the 58-yard strike to Antonio Brown that set up the game-winning touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Divisional Round.

Using the diagram above, let’s take a closer look at the play and the accompanying statistical analysis.

A) Jets' "Amoeba" defense helps to disguise pressure
New York showed heavy pressure from Roethlisberger’s left, with only defensive lineman Shaun Ellis (No. 92) lined up in a three-point stance. Pittsburgh’s offensive line anticipated pressure from Kyle Wilson (No. 20), Calvin Pace (No. 97) and Jason Taylor (No. 99), as all three lined up outside Steelers left tackle Jonathan Scott (No. 72). Mike linebacker David Harris (No. 52) also showed pressure to Ellis’ left, drawing attention from right guard Ramon Foster (No. 73) and right tackle Flozell Adams (No. 71).

Ben Roethlisberger
At the snap, Roethlisberger received the anticipated pressure from his left, with Scott, left guard Chris Kemoeatu (No. 68) and Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey (No. 53) fending off Pace, Wilson and Taylor, respectively. Harris dropped back into zone coverage, while Ellis put an outside swim move on Foster to engage Adams. With both Foster and Adams occupied, cornerback Antonio Cromartie (No. 31) came in unblocked and had a clear path toward Roethlisberger.

For the second year in a row, the Jets sent defensive back pressure on more dropbacks than any NFL team, allowing a passer rating of 87.1, despite conceding 7.9 yards per pass attempt (28th in NFL). This is one of many disguises they use when sending secondary pass rushers.

B) Big Ben’s pump fake deflects the blitz
Roethlisberger had the league’s highest passer rating this season (105.0) in the face of a defensive back blitz among quarterbacks with at least 70 attempts. Only Aaron Rodgers (9.3) averaged more yards per attempt against secondary pass pressure than Roethlisberger (9.1).

This play was one example of how Roethlisberger can beat a blitzing defensive back by himself. When Cromartie rushed at the snap, Roethlisberger pump-faked, drawing a jump from Cromartie and extending the play. While Roethlisberger’s pocket presence and sheer size are assets for the Steelers quarterback in fending off secondary pressure, the pump-fake has become his signature move. Roethlisberger used the pump fake five times on the Steelers’ final drive of Super Bowl XLIII, completing three passes for 59 yards and the game-winning touchdown to Santonio Holmes.

C) Roethlisberger buys time inside the pocket
Once Cromartie bit on the fake, it bought Roethlisberger some more time through his mobility inside the pocket. “Big Ben” stepped to his right while keeping his vision directed downfield.

Roethlisberger had the second-highest yards per attempt (8.5) this season passing inside the pocket (min. 100 attempts), posting a 102.8 passer rating and throwing 19 touchdowns. On this play, Roethlisberger spotted Ward (No. 86) approaching the first down marker, and identified a throwing lane over Harris at the seam between the deep zones of defensive backs Brodney Pool (No. 22) and Dwight Lowery (No. 26). Roethlisberger controlled his momentum, set his feet and found Ward.

D) Ward finds the sticks and makes the play
Hines Ward
Ward ran an 18-yard curl route and settled into a soft spot in the Jets’ zone at the first-down marker. However, while Roethlisberger shifted right in the pocket, Ward took a couple extra steps toward the sideline and away from Pool. In doing this, Ward gave himself enough space to make the catch and get the first down before Pool could get there and disrupt the play.

Roethlisberger passed for nine first downs on third down and 11 or more yards-to-go this season, tied for the second-most in the NFL. While teammate Emmanuel Sanders was tied for third in the league with four first-down receptions on third-and-11 or more, it’s the veteran Ward who was trusted to make the play here, and he delivered.

Steelers win, TO makes history

November, 9, 2010

Let's take a look at some of the notes, stats and trends from the Pittsburgh Steelers' 27-21 win over the Cincinnati Bengals...

• The win makes the Steelers 6-2 at the halfway point of the season for the fourth straight season.

• Mike Tomlin is now 6-0 on Monday Night Football as the Steelers head coach. He's the sixth different head coach to win his first six Monday games.

• Hines Ward caught a pass for the 186th consecutive game. That is the third-longest streak in NFL history. However, he has quite a ways to go to catch the all-time leader. Jerry Rice caught a pass in 274 straight games from 1985 to 2004.

• The Steelers have now allowed 123 points this season. Incredibly, over half of them (63) have been in the fourth quarter. On Monday, 14 of the Bengals' 21 points came in the final frame.

Terrell Owens had two TD receptions as he became the third player in NFL history with at least 150 career TD receptions. The others are Jerry Rice and Randy Moss.

• It's his 32nd career game with at least two TD receptions. Again, only Rice and Moss have more.

• It's also Owens' 51st career game with at least 100 receiving yards. That is the fourth-most in NFL history. Rice, Moss and Marvin Harrison are the three players in front of him in this category.

• Owens is the third player since the merger to post 10 receptions and a pair of receiving touchdowns against the Steelers. The others are Don Beebe and Ben Coates.

Antwaan Randle El threw his fifth career TD pass to Mike Wallace. Wallace caught two passes of at least 35 yards and now has caught seven such balls this season. That is tied with Brandon Lloyd for the NFL lead.

• The Steelers led 27-7 in the fourth quarter, yet almost lost the game. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last team to lose a game in which they had a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter was the New York Giants on November 26, 2006. That day they lost to the Tennessee Titans after leading 21-0 in the fourth.