Print and Go Back ESPN.com: AFC North [Print without images]

Thursday, February 2, 2012
Ward still planning to play for Steelers

By Jamison Hensley

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Steelers will have to make a decision on Hines Ward's future with the team by the start of next month when he is due a roster bonus. But, in Ward's mind, he isn't going anywhere.

"I plan on playing with the Pittsburgh Steelers and going from there," Ward said at the Super Bowl media center Thursday.

Ward's chances of returning increased with the departure of offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who had been looking to reduce Ward's role the past couple of seasons. If Pittsburgh is committed to getting back to a run-first offense, Ward's value goes up because of his blocking.

Ward, who lost his starting job this season, is scheduled to make $4 million in the last two years of his contract but he has said that he is willing to take a pay cut. A decision has to be made by March 1 because of a clause in his contract.

When a reporter brought up the speculation about Ward retiring, the Pittsburgh wide receiver called it "rumors," saying he wants to play next season. Asked if he wanted to play three, four or five more years, the 35-year-old Ward laughed and said, "I don't know about that long."

Ward is at the Super Bowl to promote USA Network's "NFL Characters Unite," an hour-long documentary that focuses on the prejudice and discrimination that Ward, Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez, Saints tight end Jimmy Graham and former NFL coach Tony Dungy faced while growing up. Each one assists a teen going through a similar situation. It will air Feb. 10 at 7 p.m.

"The example we put on them is never use environment as an excuse," Ward said. "I grew up in a single-parent, low-income home and it never deterred me."

Ward spent time on his one day off during the season to help Carlton Dennis, a junior at Clairton City School District. He assisted Dennis in writing a song called "City of Prayer," which is now available on iTunes.

"All I can think about is the smile on his face," Ward said when asked of Dennis' reaction when he hears the song.