On Tuesday the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced that two former Pittsburgh Steelers players are among the 25 modern-era semifinalists for the Class of 2021. The two players are offensive guard Alan Faneca and wide receiver Hines Ward.
As noted by Steelers.com, Faneca has advanced to the semifinal stage for the last five years while Ward has also been a semifinalist five times.
Also, as previously announced, the late Bill Nunn (who was part of the Steelers organization for 46 years) has been selected as the Contributor finalist for induction in 2021. A Contributor finalist must receive at least 80% “yes” votes to be inducted, but support for Nunn’s candidacy has been building momentum over the course of the past year.
Alan Faneca’s Chances of Being Elected
Meanwhile, Faneca also has an excellent chance of getting inducted with the Class of 2021. For one, there are probably only a couple of players among the list of 25 who are “locks,” with quarterback Peyton Manning (Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos) at the top of the list. Also, several other elite offensive linemen have been elected in recent years—including Steve Hutchinson (2020) and Kevin Mawae (2019)—leaving Faneca as arguably the top eligible offensive lineman yet to be elected.
Faneca (1998-2010) certainly has the Pro Bowl bona fides to warrant induction. He was a six-time first-team All-Pro and a nine-time Pro Bowler, not to mention a member of the NFL’s all-decade team of the 2000s. Less well known is that he was penalized remarkably few times during the course of his career, including just one 15-yard penalty in 206 games.
For what it’s worth, NFL.com writer Adam Rank has Faneca ranked as the seventh-best candidate among the list of 25, saying he was “stunned” when Faneca didn’t get the call last year.
“There are some who would argue Faneca is more deserving than Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis,” writes Rank. “I am one of those people.”
Hines Ward’s Chances of Being Elected
As for Hines Ward (1998-2011), he is generally considered to have much less of a chance of getting elected than Faneca, perhaps through no fault of his own, as he played with below average quarterbacks until Ben Roethlisberger was drafted in 2004. Also, 1,000 career catches doesn’t sound as impressive as it used to, and he was voted to only four Pro Bowls (2001-04).
On the other hand, Ward is widely considered to be one of the best blocking wide receivers of all-time; in fact, one of the NFL’s blocking rules is sometimes referred to as ‘The Hines Ward Rule.’ It also helps that he has two Super Bowl rings and was MVP of Super Bowl XL.
Five Steelers Failed to Make the Semifinal Round
In case you’re wondering, there were five former Steelers players who failed to make the cutdown to the semifinal round, those being tight end Heath Miller, outside linebacker Joey Porter, nose tackle Casey Hampton, placekicker Gary Anderson and punter Rohn Stark, the latter of whom played for the Steelers for just one season (1995).
The next step in the process of selecting the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2021 comes when the Hall of Fame Selection Committee holds its annual meeting on the Saturday before the Super Bowl. At that point, the list of 25 semifinalists will be whittled down to 15 finalists, then 10, and then five.
The Class of 2021 is scheduled to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame on Sunday August 8th, the day after the Class of 2020 (which includes former Steelers safeties Troy Polamalu and Donnie Shell, as well as former Steelers coach Bill Cowher).
The Steelers will also feature on the first day of the 2021 Hall of Fame Weekend when the team takes on the Dallas Cowboys in the Hall of Fame Game on August 5, 2021.
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