NFL.com’s Jason LaCanfora is reporting tonight via his blog & twitter that according to sources the Steeles are not going to bring back veteran Wide Receiver Hines Ward next season.
Ward has been in the league for 14 years, all of them with the Steelers after being drafted by Bill Cowher back in 1998. Hines still has 1 year left on his current deal in which he is due $4 million. The team could restructure his contract if they choose too but they may decided to cut ties with a team icon as they move forward. Even though Hines has said he doesn’t want to retire and would be open to a restructure it appears the team has other ideas. It just wouldn’t seem right not have #86 on the field on Sunday afternoons anymore but we all knew this day was coming sooner or later.
It’s always hard having to cut ties with such a fan favorite and important player to your franchise but the NFL is a business, a harsh one at times. This is a “what have you done for me lately” league and the Steelers have 3 young standouts already making a big impact on the offense. Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, and Emmanuel Sanders all have speed to burn and good hands in traffic so even if Ward is not there the future seems secure after some solid drafting by Steelers GM Kevin Colbert and the team coaches.
Ward only had 46 catches for 381 yds. and 2 TD’s this season, not the numbers you’re used to seeing from a guy who hold every significant receiving record in team history. As we remember, they did make a conscious effort to get Hines his 1000th reception late in the year, perhaps a sign then of things to come.