Hines Ward will go down as one of the most decorated players in Pittsburgh Steelers history. If, however, he is true to his word on playing in 2012 he will not go down as a career Steeler.
The Steelers announced that Ward, the franchise leader in every major receiving category, would be released. This would follow in the path of other great receivers such as Jerry Rice and Tim Brown in not finishing their storied paths with the franchise they are most synonymous with.
To be fair, this wasn’t a malicious move on the part of the Steelers, Ward simply just didn’t fit in the offense with the emergence of Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown. They are also looking towards others in free agency to fill the spot of third receiver. That left Ward, who was set to collect $4 million dollars had he returned, the odd man out at fourth receiver. That wasn’t fiscally possible despite efforts by Ward to restructure his contract to retire with the only organization he’s known.
Since being drafted by the Steelers with the 92nd pick out of the University of Georgia back in 1998 Ward has become one of the most prolific and beloved figures in Pittsburgh Steelers history. He is a four-time Pro Bowler (2001-2004) and was selected second team All-Pro three times (2002-2004). He is a two-time Super Bowl champion, winning the Super Bowl MVP in Super Bowl XL. He is holds franchise records in receptions, touchdowns, and receiving yards.
Ward, 36, still believes he can contribute and will seek to catch on with a team in free agency when it begins in mid-March.