Hines Ward has gone from Super Bowl hero in Pittsburgh to being on the doorstep of being cut, according to a report by NFL.com. Ward, a former Georgia star, responded to the report by saying he would be willing to restructure his deal for next season if it meant he could finish his career with the Steelers.
PITTSBURGH — Steelers’ wide receiver Hines Ward wants to retire with the Pittsburgh Steelers, offering to restructure his contract to do it.
Ward posted on his Facebook page Saturday that he’s already told the Steelers he’s willing to work with them on altering his deal so he can remain with the team. Ward’s comments came after NFL.com reported the Steelers are planning to cut the franchise’s all-time leading receiver.
“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.
The 14-year veteran is scheduled to make $4 million in 2012. He’s coming off a season in which he finished with 46 receptions for 381 yards and two touchdowns, the lowest totals in each category since he was a rookie in 1998.
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. Ward pushed aside speculation he would retire after the Steelers’ season ended with a 29-23 overtime loss to Denver in the wild card round.
“No, I’m not even thinking about that,” Ward said at the time.
The 2006 Super Bowl MVP did not catch a pass against the Broncos, 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.”