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The Ward Dilemma; What To Do With a Future Hall of Famer

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ all-time leader in all things receiving sat down yesterday with Art Rooney II and discussed his future with the organization. This was a meeting asked for by Hines Ward who wants to continue playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers entering his 15th professional season.

The good news here is that it appears that Ward realizes his circumstances and wants to do whatever it takes to remain with the Steelers. He clearly recognizes with two years left on his contract at $4 million per season that he is going to have to restructure his deal if he is going to remain part of the team. It appears he knows this from a personal as well as team vantage point. “We have so many issues. We’re $30 million over the cap,” said Ward.

For a guy that has been at times viewed as selfish, stand-offish or even whiny this is a positive step for both him and the team. Ward will be forever loved by the vast majority of the Steeler Nation because he fit the mold of toughness required by the Steel City at a position that often lacks it in today’s game. With that said, even lifelong Ward fans like myself came to realize throughout the season that Hines was not what he used to be. He was never fast or quick, but found ways to get open and now with the crew of Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders in front of him Ward sees the light.

Ward started strongly in 2011 but fell off quickly and found himself deep on the depth chart in mid-season. Ward did not raise a stink as some thought he may, but he rather chose to talk about the guys in front of him and how much progress they have made. As the season rolled on it was obvious to everyone that the Steelers were doing everything they could to get Hines his 1,000th reception which he finally did in the finale at Cleveland.

Dealing with superstars as they age is never easy. Babe Ruth, Muhammad Ali and Brett Favre all struggled with when to call it a day and from a fans’ standpoint it gets frustrating because you don’t want to remember you favorites as anything but their best but it doesn’t always go that way. What fans have to understand is that these athletes do this their whole lives and to just walk away is not as easy as it sounds. Ward finds himself in this position today and it has to eat him up inside but there is nothing he can do to stop Father Time.

I believe the decision with Ward is difficult for more reasons than just money. He will not be a special teams’ player and to pay a fourth or fifth receiver second receiver-type money is not going to happen. Much of this decision may ultimately be out of Ward’s hands. I for one believe he has some use left in him especially in the red zone or short yardage situations. Much of this opinion I have will be based on how he performs at training camp. While I don’t bemoan his decision to do “Dancing With the Stars” last year I think it hindered his normal off-season routine. Perhaps now with a full pre-season in front of him he can get a little something back.

Either way, Ward is doing all the right things now to be the guy with the wide smile that Steelers’ fans love. None of us will be surprised if Hines’ ‘woe is me’ attitude arises if this goes on for a long time, but for now anyway, he is being a team player in every sense of the word.

By: Marc Uhlmann
Twitter: @SteelDad
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