Wishlist for Coaching staff is retaining Cotchery, drafting tall-wideout
Head Coach Mike Tomlin loves Hines Ward as a person but Tomlin and his staff surely don’t “love” Ward’s playing ability anymore. “We love Hines, ” Tomlin said on Monday.
Everyone in the organization loves Hines too as he’s an icon, but several higherups know that it’s time to move on.
Ward, 35, turns 36 in March and ended the season as the Steelers clear No. 5 wide receiver after barely seeing the field against Denver. The only reason Ward was on the field as much as he was in the final regular season games was because the coaching staff was trying to get him his 1,000th reception with minus-3 yard shovel passes.
From a playing standpoint, it makes no sense to retain Ward and a financial standpoint backs that up, as Ward is due $4 million in 2012. He is also due a bonus over $1 million in March.
Multiple sources indicate that the coaching staff does not want Ward back and their off-season wishlist is retaining pending free agent Jerricho Cotchery and drafting a big tall wideout, possibly as early as the second or third round.
Mike Wallace is a restricted free agent, while Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders are entering the final year of their contract. Cotchery is an unrestricted free agent. He made the veteran minimum of $810,000 and a big reason for that was because of his health.
While Tomlin and his staff fully believe it’s time to move on, ownership will have the final say. Mike Tomlin has a ton of authority on personnel moves, some say even more than Kevin Colbert if there’s a disagreement on a player, but the word going around Steelers headquarters this week is that ownership will not release Ward under any circumstances, unless he were to ask for one to pursue better opportunities.Â
Regardless, the Ward situation is among the top storylines this off-season.
Many believe a Jerome Bettis type of deal (2005 season), 1 year – $1 million will be pushed from ownership but this is a different situation.
At that time, Bettis was the Steelers No. 2 running back and ended the 2004 season as their No. 1 running back and played a big role on a 15-1 team, rushing for 941 yards and scoring 13 touchdowns.
Ward had no role close to that with the Steelers in the second half of this season and barely got on the field against Denver.
The best case scenario would be for Ward to announce his retirement but all indications are Ward has full intentions of playing in 2012.