Well, it appears that the Steelers have scheduled a press conference with Hines Ward for this afternoon. The clear inference would be that Ward has decided to hang up his cleats.
Now pardon me while I gush over one of my all-time favorites...
If this is indeed the end, I think it's a satisfying ending to a career that I hope ends up in Canton. Ward, as much as anyone in the NFL, is associated with one team. And with other provincial icons being forced to don another uniform (it will never not be awkward seeing Peyton Manning in a Bronco uniform), I love the fact that guys like Ward (and I'll even say hopefully Ray Lewis) end their careers in only one uniform.
Ward is one of those players who you adored if he was on your side, and respected (often with an inner hatred) if he wasn't. You wanted him on your team because you knew without any doubt that he would make your team better.
For all of his accomplishments, I look more at the development of WR in his time with Pittsburgh. He was known for his toughness, but even more impressive was how his style of play rubbed off on his teammates. Plaxico Burress became one of the most complete/best blocking WRs in the league. Santonio Holmes gave constant effort in Pittsburgh, including in the running game. I also think he's aided the development of Mike Wallace, and certainly Antonio Brown, who both quickly morphed into pro bowl players.
Ward was an example every team would wish they had. He's certainly one of the favorite players of me, and any Steeler fan. And I'd love to see him decide to continue on in coaching, because I think that was the most underappreciated/least known aspect to his game.
I know that WRs have seemingly hit a road block into Canton, but Hines Ward is one of those players who transcended the position, and a HOF without him wouldn't seem to be complete.