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Ward: “I plan on playing with the Pittsburgh Steelers”

Besides the assistant coaching changes news, the Steelers have roster decisions to make and big one coming up is for the great Hines Ward.

Ward just finished up his 14th year in the league, and even though his stats are a shadow of what they used to be, Hines insists he’s still got a couple years left in him and wants to play. He’s debunked the rumors of his retirement all year long and actually gets somewhat annoyed when constantly asked about it. He may not be prolific receiver that he used to be but he can still block and still make the tough catches. On a roster full of young, fast talent Hines is the elder statesman and has helped his teammates learn the ropes of playing the in the NFL.

If the Steelers do bring him back it certainly will not be for the $4 million he’s due to make. It doesn’t appear that Hines will force the issue with his contact, saying previously that he knows he’d have to restructure to return. That may be an understatement but if he’s willing to work with the team in a significant manner, you have to believe Rooney’s will find a way to bring him back.

 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.

2011 STATS

  • Rec46
  • Yds381
  • TD2
  • Avg8.3
  • Long31
  • YAC184

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. – ESPN

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