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.