Hines Ward Becomes A Free Agent After Steelers Release Him

The Steelers announced that they will release longtime receiver Hines Ward, who has been with the team since 1998.

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Looking At Hines Ward In Free Agency; Any Interest?

The PIttsburgh Steelers announced Wednesday that they are releasing longtime wide receiver Hines Ward, who has been with the team since they made him a third round draft pick in 1998. He's the team's career leader in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.

His best days are behind him, without question. Ward will turn 36 years old next week and is coming off a season in which he posted his lowest numbers since his rookie year. There's not a whole lot left in the tank.

But Ward says he wants to keep playing in 2012. Where will he land?

NFL Network's Jason La Canfora wonders if a team like the Tampa Bay Bucs or Jacksonville Jaguars could use a veteran receiver like Ward. That makes some sense. I think his best role would be a mentor-type to a team with young receivers. Ward obviously can't be the featured receiver anymore, but he can contribute given the right situation.

Someone will take a look at him and give him a shot. He lacks the speed he once had, which is a big deal for receivers, but he can still be a possession receiver and he can still provide leadership and experience to other players. That's what likely gets him onto a roster at some point before the 2012 season.

For more on Hines Ward and the Pittsburgh Steelers, visit SB Nation's Steelers blog Behind The Steel Curtain. And for more on Pittsburgh sports, visit SB Nation Pittsburgh.

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Hines Ward: 'I Still Have More Football Left In Me'

The Pittsburgh Steelers released a statement on Wednesday announcing the release of Hines Ward, who had been with the team since 1998. In a statement of his own, Ward said that he hoped to remain a Steeler but he looks forward to continuing his NFL career. Via NFL Network's Andrew Siciliano:

This isn't how I wanted this chapter of my career to end. I did 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.

There were reports that Ward was willing to take a pay cut to stay in Pittsburgh. The Steelers have a lot of cap room that needs to be cleared in order to keep a few other players, like Mike Wallace, so parting ways was the best football decision. Ward had such a small role in the Steelers offense down the stretch that it probably didn't make sense for the marriage to continue.

The more immediate news is that Ward will be a free agent. He has an impressive NFL resume but in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league, it's hard to imagine there will be a strong market for the 36-year-old receiver.

For more on Hines Ward and the Pittsburgh Steelers, visit SB Nation's Steelers blog Behind The Steel Curtain. And for more on Pittsburgh sports, visit SB Nation Pittsburgh.

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Hines Ward, Steelers Will Part Ways

The Pittsburgh Steelers announced on Wednesday that longtime receiver Hines Ward will not be back with the team next season. Ward's contract is up so this can't be considered a major shock, but he's been with the team for 14 years.

Ward has spent his entire career with the Steelers since he joined the team back in 1998. He's been one of the most productive and consistent receivers in history with over 12,000 yards and 85 touchdowns in his NFL career. He is the Pittsburgh franchise leader in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.

Via the Steelers release:

"We 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," Steelers President Art Rooney II told the team's website, Steelers.com.

"Hines 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. Hines' 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."

Retirement rumors followed Ward earlier this year but he has denied them. It's unclear what his plans are moving forward. The Steelers made the right football decision here, as Ward's skills were declining and the team had clearly moved on given how his role decreased throughout the season. Ward is 36 years old and may have trouble generating much interest from other teams in free agency.

For more on Hines Ward and the Pittsburgh Steelers, visit SB Nation's Steelers blog Behind The Steel Curtain. And for more on Pittsburgh sports, visit SB Nation Pittsburgh.

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Steelers GM: No Decision On Hines Ward Yet

The Pittsburgh Steelers could have a very different look in 2012. In addition to revealing that the team is not very confident that Rashard Mendenhall can be back early next year, General Manager Kevin Colbert said no decision has been made on wide receiver Hines Ward, or any other veteran free agents (via Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette).

"To this current point, no final decisions have been made," Colbert said of Ward and all the veteran players. "We've had several discussions internally. We're right in the midst of our free agent evaluations of other teams' free agents. We'll meet on those [on the Steelers roster] starting Thursday and carry through Monday."

If the team were to allow Ward to leave, they would be bidding farewell to a player who has come to largely define the Steelers since joining them in 1998. The 35-year-old has accumulated more than 12,000 receiving yards and scored 86 touchdowns during his 14-year career.

He's also coming off the least productive year since his rookie campaign. Despite playing in 15 games, he made just 46 catches for 381 yards and two touchdowns. Those were all career lows, excluding his rookie year. Ward reportedly made about $3 million and had a cap hit of $3.6 million. Clearly, the Steelers will be looking to drastically reduce those figures.

For more on Ward's future, be sure to check out Steelers blog Behind the Steel Curtain.

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Hines Ward Would Take Less Money To Stay With Steelers

Hines Ward is determined to retire with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the only franchise he's ever known. He's currently slated to earn $4 million in 2012, and following a down season in which he was overshadowed by up-and-coming receivers such as Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders, there's been speculation that he could be released this offseason.

Ward has heard the chatter, and he took to his official Facebook page in hopes of stopping the rumor mill in its tracks:

I don't normally like to respond to rumors, but as I've said all along, I want to finish my career with the Pittsburgh Steelers. And as I've already told the organization, I am willing to work with them to restructure my contract to make sure this happens. - HINES

It remains to be seen what the Steelers want to do, but it would be a surprise if they can't work out a deal. Ward currently ranks No. 8 on the NFL's all-time receptions list, tied for No. 13 for receiving touchdowns and No. 18 for receiving yards. But among players who have played for only one team, he ranks second, fourth and third, respectively. He's an iconic player who's identified with the black and gold, and it would be uncomfortable for everyone to see him finish his career elsewhere.

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Hines Ward, Steelers May Part Ways, According To Report

Iconic Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward won't be back with Pittsburgh in the 2012 NFL season, according to a report.

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Hines Ward Takes To Facebook To Deny Retirement Rumors

Despite reported speculation from inside Pittsburgh's locker room, Hines Ward is not yet ready to retire. The Steelers wide receiver shot down the rumor earlier Monday evening on his Facebook page:

I wanted take a moment to thank all of Steeler Nation for the love and support. I'm sorry for the disappointing loss. I'm still depressed about it. We had a great year finishing 12-4 but our ultimate goal was to win the Super Bowl and we fell short. Hats off to Denver. I'm also getting lots of questions about retirement so let me set the record straight: I have no plans on retiring right now. I want to win another Superbowl. I don't know where the media is getting this info from but rest assured that when I decide to retire, you'll hear it from ME first.

Ward, a 14-year veteran, is signed through 2013 after signing a four-year extension in 2009. But despite playing in 15 games, he had his least productive season since his rookie year, catching just 46 passes for 381 yards and two touchdowns. He lost his starting job to second-year receiver Antonio Brown, and there's at least a chance the Steelers may release him in the offseason.

Whenever Ward decides to retire, he'll leave the game as one of the most productive wide receivers the NFL has ever seen. He's been to four Pro Bowls and won two Super Bowls, and was named Super Bowl MVP in 2006. With exactly 1,000 career receptions, he ranks eighth on the NFL's all-time list, and with 85 career receiving touchdowns, 13th on the league's all-time list.

For more on Ward, check out Steelers blog Behind The Steel Curtain.

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Hines Ward Could Opt For Retirement, According To Report

Hines Ward, a Steelers receiver for the last 14 years, could be leaning toward retirement, according to a report.

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