Have the Steelers make a decision internally on Hines Ward who is due a $4 million base salary and carries a $4.610 million cap hit? According to one report it seems they have. Jason LaCanfora of NFL network reported on Friday that the Steelers will not be bringing Ward back, citing unnamed sources.
After falling to 5th on the depth chart, Ward returning to Pittsburgh in 2012 has been vastly over-rated by some and strong indications going into the Steelers off-season evaluations is that the coaching staff does not want Ward back and resigning Jerricho Cotchery is at the top of their wishlist. That view from the coaching staff is said to remain the same from a few weeks ago, despite Bruce Arians being out the door, who Ward believes was the big reason for his diminishing playing time.
However, due to Art Rooney’s possible role in the Ward decision, this is one of those situations where until Ward or is camp has been informed by the STEELERS that they won’t be bringing Ward back, it’s still a wait and see situation on whether Ward is returning or not.
A league source confirmed this morning that Ward nor his agent have been informed of whether the Steelers will be bringing him back or not. The two sides have not spoken in over ten days but Ward’s camp expects to hear from the team soon and before the scouting combine, sources say.
Releasing Ward will save the Steelers $4 million in cap space. He has expressed interest in taking a significant reduction in pay and that’s the only way he returns but the best move in my opinion is to cut ties with the soon to be 36 year old for the sole reason that Ward still believes he can play and the coaching staff clearly showed last season they no longer believe he can.
The Steelers still have their sights set on retaining Jerricho Cotchery who the team regards as a younger Hines Ward due to his ability to be a factor in run blocking situations and his ability in the redzone.
Cotchery was playing for the veteran minimum last season, making $810,000 and seeks a raise but has a strong interest in returning to Pittsburgh, league sources say.
Steelers will be in okay shape cap wise moving forward
The Pittsburgh Steelers have saved close to $20 million in cap space with the restructuring of deals for LaMarr Woodley, Lawrence Timmons and Ike Taylor, in addition to releasing Bryant McFadden and Arnaz Battle this week.
Woodley had his cap hit go down from $11.5 million to $4.94 million and Lawrence Timmons went from a $9.125 million cap hit to just a shade above $3.9 million.
Ike Taylor saved the Steelers over $3.5 million with his deal being restrucured.
James Harrison has the second highest cap hit on the team of $9.030 million, but there isn’t any urgency at this point to restructure Harrison’s deal. The Steelers last weekend spoke with Bill Parise the agent for James Harrison about the possibility of Harrison restructuring, but there’s been no further discussions, Parise confirmed today.
Here’s a look at several veterans whose status with the team is in doubt and how much cap space would be saved in releasing each player:
Casey Hampton – $5.89 million (dead money $2.166 million)
Hines Ward – $4 million (dead money $610,000)
Chris Kemoeatu – $3.577 million (dead money $1.684 million)

Larry Foote – $3 million (dead money $600,000
James Farrior – $2.825 million (dead money $1 million)
Jonathan Scott – $2.2 million (dead money $500,000)
Aaron Smith – $2.1 million (dead money $875,000)
– Releasing Hampton, Ward, Kemoeatu, Scott, Smith and one of Foote or Farrior would save the Steelers over $20 million.