On Wednesday the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced the names of 122 modern-era players who are candidates for the Class of 2022. The list includes five former Pittsburgh Steelers, including wide receiver Hines Ward (1998-2011), who has been a semifinalist for each of the past five years.
The other four ex-Steelers are tight end Heath Miller (2005-15), nose tackle Casey Hampton (2001-12), linebacker Hardy Nickerson Sr. (1987-92) and placekicker Gary Anderson (1982-94).
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The nominations follow in the wake of five members of the organization being inducted in the Hall of Fame this summer, including offensive guard Alan Faneca and former scout Bill Nunn Jr. (aka The Dynasty Builder), both of whom are part of the Class of 2021.
The three Steelers who are members of the Class of 2020—head coach Bill Cowher and safeties Donnie Shell and Troy Polamalu—were enshrined on Aug. 7, 2021, with their ceremony delayed by a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ironically, the sheer volume of Steelers who were enshrined in 2021 may make it more difficult for other members of the organization to earn their way into the Hall of Fame in the next few years. No doubt Hines Ward has the best chance, especially since Alan Faneca went out of his way to highlight his former teammate’s candidacy by naming Ward as his Hall of Fame presenter. The Hall of Fame talk surrounding the recent retirement of former New England Patriots receiver Julian Edelman also helped paint Ward’s career in a more favorable light.
As for the other four Steelers candidates: Heath Miller and Casey ‘Big Snack’ Hampton—both former first-round picks, in 2005 and 2001, respectively—had long, exceptional careers and possess Super Bowl rings, but lack the gaudy statistics and volume of Pro Bowl nominations that typically highlight Hall of Fame résumés. All in all, Hampton is probably better off, as he was a starter on three Super Bowl teams and has two rings to go along with his five Pro Bowls, this according to Pro Football Reference.
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At this point, both Nickerson and Anderson have to be considered long-shot candidates, if only because of the amount of time that has passed since their careers came to an end. Nickerson played six of his 16 NFL seasons with the Steelers, with all five of his Pro Bowls coming while he played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1993-99).
Anderson authored a 23-year career in which he converted 80.1% of his field goals and made the Pro Bowl four times. Most notably, he was named first-team All-Pro in 1998, when he had a “perfect” regular season, converting 35 of 35 field goal attempts and 59 of 59 extra-point attempts for the Minnesota Vikings.
As per the usual process, the list of 122 modern-era nominees will be cut to 25 semifinalists in November and to 15 finalists in January. Finally, the Hall of Fame Selection Committee will meet to determine the class members, and the 2022 Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony will be held next August in Canton, Ohio.
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