In revisiting this subject after Ward's retirement Tuesday, the best argument for Ward's enshrinement is that there are only two players in NFL history to catch 1,000 passes and win multiple Super Bowls: Ward and Jerry Rice. That's elite status, which is what the Hall of Fame represents. It's the best of the best.
Jason Vida from ESPN Stats & Information examined Ward's Hall of Fame credentials in a manner that the folks from ESPN Stats & Information usually do. You should click on the link to read the entire blog, but I wanted to highlight a couple of points.
Ward's production as a receiver -- he finished in the top 20 all-time in catches, receiving yards and touchdown catches -- is even more impressive when you consider the Steelers were one of the top running teams for much of his 14-year career. According to S&I, 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.
While it's debatable that Ward was the NFL's best receiver in any given year, he will be remembered as the greatest blocking wide receiver in league history. During Ward's NFL career, only the Denver Broncos and Jacksonville Jaguars gained more rushing yards than the Steelers. How much of an impact did Ward make? Just take a look at last year. According to S&I, the Steelers averaged 5.3 yards per rush with Ward on the field compared to 4.1 with him on the sideline.
Other wide receivers will make more catches than Ward. Others will score more touchdowns. But no one will be as complete a wide receiver as Ward. And, for that, he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.