Saturday, February 11, 2012
Updated: February 12, 12:44 PM ET
Report: Steelers won't keep Hines Ward
ESPN.com news services
The Pittsburgh Steelers, with a Hines Ward roster-bonus deadline fast approaching, have decided not to keep the veteran receiver, the NFL Network has reported, citing unnamed sources.
Ward, who lost his starting job in 2011, was scheduled to make $4 million in the last two years of his contract but has said he was willing to take a pay cut.
"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," Ward posted Saturday on his Facebook page, referring to reports of his possible retirement.
Ward reiterated he's already told the Steelers he's willing to work with them on altering his deal so he can remain with the team.
A decision is required in March to satisfy a clause in his contract. ESPN.com earlier had reported that the decision was required by March 1, but the exact date of the clause in Ward's deal is unclear.
"I plan on playing with the Pittsburgh Steelers and going from there," Ward said Thursday during Super Bowl week.
Asked at the media center in Indianapolis
if he wanted to play three, four or five more years, Ward laughed and said, "I don't know about that long."
Ward, who turns 36 next month, became the eighth player in league history to reach 1,000 career receptions in the regular-season finale against Cleveland. He and Jerry Rice are the only players in league history to reach 1,000 receptions and win multiple Super Bowls.
Yet Ward's role within the offense diminished as Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders passed him on the depth chart and Mike Wallace became a Pro Bowler.
The 2006 Super Bowl MVP did not catch a pass in the Steelers' 29-23 overtime loss to Denver in the wild-card round, the first time in Ward's career he was held without a reception in a postseason game. His future is one of several questions that will need to be addressed during what's already been an active offseason for one of the league's most stable franchises.
Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians was not offered a new contract and spent just over a week unemployed before taking the same position with the Indianapolis Colts. The Steelers hired former Kansas City head coach Todd Haley to replace Arians, though Haley didn't mention Ward's name at all during an introductory press conference on Thursday.
The Steelers will look for receiver depth after releasing veteran Arnaz Battle this week and the possible departure of Jerricho Cotchery, who will be an unrestricted free agent. Pittsburgh has just four receivers under contract for 2012, including Ward.
Wallace, Brown and Sanders have spoken at length about Ward's leadership and all want his No. 86 to be on the field next season.
"He sets the tone in the room," Brown said of Ward. "We definitely want to help a guy like him win."
Information from ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley and The Associated Press was used in this report.