Ward-ed Away

If you are an avid sports fan and watch SportsCenter on a daily basis, there is no doubt you heard last Wednesday that the Steelers have released 15-year star wide receiver Hines Ward. If you are a Baltimore Ravens fan, then you probably would have found yourself mimicking that infamous ear-to-ear grin of his.

This is sad and somber news for Pittsburgh fans, but very welcome news for Ravens fans. Since Hines Ward was drafted in 1998, he has been labeled as a chief enemy to the Ravens, both players and fans alike. So it is easy to see Baltimore basking in the sadness of Pittsburgh.

Ward had been a key part of the Steelers’ hard-as-steel offense. He was a four-time Pro Bowl selection and 2006 Super Bowl MVP that amassed 1,000 catches, 12,083 yards and 85 receiving touchdowns. Looking at those solid statistics, how will his absence affect the Steelers in the future? How will they fare in the AFC?

The Steelers have been known for many seasons as a relentless group of athletes. In most recent seasons, no matter what setback they have experienced, they have adapted and have always come out on top in the AFC North during crunch time.

So why would that change with the absence of one wide receiver when it is loaded with many other fearsome weapons in the Steel Curtain’s arsenal? Some of these weapons include James Harrison, Heath Miller, Troy Polamalu, and of course, Big Ben Roethlisberger to name a few.

The rest of the NFL knows better than to underestimate these very dangerous players and they have often learned the hard way. Roethlisberger is a stingy quarterback who works well under pressure and is extra dangerous when down only a few points late in the game. Harrison and Polamalu, despite both not exactly having hallmark seasons this past year, are two of Pittsburgh’s greatest defensive threats.

Offensively speaking, the Steelers have Antonio Brown, Jerricho Cotchery, Rashard Mendenhall, and Emmanuel Sanders to help fill the void of the departed Ward.

The Steelers have had their share of setbacks, but they have an irritable habit of working past these roadblocks and coming out on top in the end.

This past year was not their best, being burned by the Ravens twice (the first time since 2006), finishing second in the AFC North standings, and getting their taste of “Tebow Mania” in the Wild Card round, but look for Pittsburgh to hang around and be a serious threat from opening day all the way through the playoffs for years to come.

The Steelers have too many weapons on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Roethlisberger will find a new target to go to during crunch time while the defense will continue to live up to its “Steel Curtain” glory days back in the 70s.

Losing Hines Ward will deplete the Steelers of toughness on the offensive side of the ball, but it will not hurt their record or its stance in the AFC North.

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