Hines Ward's 2008 Season One Of His Best In An Illustrious Hall of Fame Worthy Career

In my most recent post talking about the most improved Pittsburgh Steelers players from last year, I originally included Hines Ward in my poll. After the first 40 or so votes came in and not one had been registered for Hines, I removed the option and decided to devote a whole post to explaining just how solid of a year he had in an already stellar career littered with fine statistical seasons.

Hines Ward's Career Numbers
Year Games Rec Yards Yards/Rec Yards/G TDs 10+ Rec Gs/100+ Y Gs
1998 13 15 246 16.4
15.4 0 0/0
1999 14 61 638 10.5
39.9 7 0/0
2000 15 48 672 14
42 4 0/0
2001* 16 94 1003 10.7
62.7 4 1/2
2002* 16 112 1329 11.9
83.1 12 2/4
2003* 16 95 1163 12.2
72.7 10 1/2
2004 16 80 1004 12.6
62.8 4 0/2
2005* 15 69 975 14.1
65 11 0/4
2006 14 74 975 13.2
69.6 6 0/2
2007 13 71 732 10.3
56.3 7 1/0
2008* 16 81 1043 12.9
65.2 7 1/4

Keep reading for analysis and more numbers after the poll and the jump.

The seasons with an asterisk represent the top 5 statistical seasons in Hines' illustrious career. In 2001-2004, Hines made four straight Pro Bowls, but I think 2005 was a better season than 2004 because of the high number of TDs and YPC. 2002 and 2003 were the gun slinging years of the Tommy Maddox era. But it was 2008 that stood out to me as one of his better seasons.

In the context of improvement from the previous year, 2008 was only bested by his first year playing WR full time in 1999 and his break through year in 2001, where he nearly double his receptions total and added a healthy 30% to his yards from the 2000 season.  For the purposes of this, I will exclude 1999, his 2nd year in the pros if only because it's inherently obvious that Ward would make a huge leap in his WR numbers from year 1 to year 2 after making the transition to WR from QB in the NFL.

Let's take a closer look at the only years in which Hines increased his statistical output in either the receiving or receiving yards categories from the previous year. Rather than giving what the

Season With Statistical Improvements
Year Receptions: % Delta Receiving Yards % Delta
2000 -21% +5.3%
2001 +95% +49%
2002 +19% +32%
2006 +7% 0%
2008 +14% +42.3%

As we can see, 2008 was bested only by his second year in the league, his breakthrough year in 2001 and his follow-up huge year in 2002 when the Steelers offense was throwing the ball on what seemed to be every down.

Now let's consider the season from a yards per reception stand point. I will exclude his 1998 totals where he had a healthy 16+ yards per catch, but only saw limited playing time. Of course, in Hines' monster years, his YPC was a bit lower as he was Maddox's go to guy in the slot in the quick hitting passing game. Nobody would deny his greatness those years, but it's still interesting to take a look at his better YPC years whil juxtaposing the figure with his receptions total that year.

 Top 5 YPC Season w/ DVOA Rank Included
Year YPC Receptions DVOA Rank
2005 14.1 69 6th
2000 14 48 29th
2006 13.2 74 40th
2008 12.9 81 11th
2004 12.6 80 12th

In case you were wondering, those 2001 and 2002 season only saw Ward ranked 40th and 12th respectively in DVOA, meaning his 2008 season was his second best in his career.

Throw in the fact that his five combined games of at least 10 catches or 100+ receiving yards - bested only by his six such combined games in 2002 and we get an even better idea of just how productive Ward was this past year. In fact, I'd argue that when one factors in just how inconsistent our offense was for the better part of this year, Ward's 2008 season should be remembered as one of the better ones in his Hall of Fame worthy career. Perhaps even as high as his 3rd best. 

Hines Ward. One of my all time favorite athletes in any sport and the one subject here on BTSC that I absolutely can not grow tired of writing about. Next time I do so, I'll look at Ward's contract status compared to other high-profile WRs around the league to show that he more than earned his paycheck in 2008 and should not necessarily be forced to take a pay cut just yet when you look at what he brings to the table compared to his high priced peers, even at this late stage in his career

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