The Pittsburgh intend to officialy release veteran wide receiver Hines Ward at the start of the 2012 calendar year. The move will save the team close to $3.4 million in cap space.
âWe had a conversation today with Hines Ward and informed him that we plan to release him of his contract prior to the start of the 2012 NFL calendar year,â Steelers President Art Rooney II told the teamâs website, Steelers.com. âHines has been an integral part of our success since we drafted him in 1998 and we will forever be grateful for what he has helped us achieve. He has meant so much to this organization, both on and off the field, and we appreciate his efforts over the past 14 years. Hinesâ accomplishments are numerous, and he will always be thought of as one of the all-time great Steelers. We wish him nothing but the best.â
Ward spent 14 years in Pittsburgh and became the teamâs all-time leader in receptions (1,000), receiving yards (12,083), receiving touchdowns (85) and 100-yard receiving games (29). Ward is the eighth player in NFL history to reach 1,000 career receptions and joined only Hall of Famer Jerry Rice as the only two players in league history to post 1,000 career catches and win multiple Super Bowls.
Ward was the MVP of Super Bowl XL after leading the Steelers to a 21-10 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. He posted a game-high 123 receiving yards on five receptions with one touchdown.
This past season Ward had 46 receptions for 381 yards and 2 touchdowns in a diminished role. He was the team’s No. 5 receiver to end the 2011 season and rarely saw the field in the wildcard playoff loss to the Denver Broncos.
“This isn’t how I wanted this chapter of my career to end, ” Ward said in a released statement. “I gave everything in my power to remain a Steeler and finish what I started here 14 years ago. I want to thank the organization, my teammates and coaches and everyone who made my run as a Steeler the best years of my life. To Mr. Rooney, thank you for allowing me to play for one of the greatest organizations in the world. To my fans and in particular, Steeler Nation, thank you for your support and all the great memories. I gave my heart and soul for you every down and I will always bleed black and gold. I do feel that I still have more football left in me and I am looking forward to playing in the NFL, again, this upcoming season.”
DePaoli’s Take: The end of an era is here for Hines Ward who had a glorious career and great run with the Steelers. The Steelers though are making the right move in cutting ties with Ward. The decision should not come as a surprise as the writing has been on the wall for a while now. It was clear at the end of last season that the coaching staff didn’t believe in Ward and few should have bought into talk that Bruce Arians was the main reason why Ward barely saw the field. Mike Tomlin oversee’s the game plan and demoting an icon would never happen without Tomlin signing off on it.