Hines Ward blames Steelers young receivers for missing playoffs

Pittsburgh Steelers former wide receiver Hines Ward wanted to play another season and could see the Steelers young receivers needed a leader, but the team felt he could no longer perform at a high level.

Ward says the receivers youth is a big reason the Steelers went 8-8 and missed the playoffs in 2012.

"They have a bunch of young, talented guys," Ward said in a recent interview with Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette. "The organization chose to go young and in a different direction. My argument was, 'Great, but I don't think any of those guys other than Mike Wallace were in crucial situations to ask them to carry the load.

"They were asked to be put into a huge role at such a young age. I had to deal with it. I was a veteran guy my second year. It's a learning curve for those guys. The transition going to next year, maybe they'll learn from their mistakes.

"I love everything about those guys. I wish them nothing but the best with those guys. ... Hopefully, the light bulb will turn on for those guys and they'll understand what the profession is on and off field.

"With A.B., Mike and Emmanuel, sometimes it takes more than work ethic. You have to put in the time both at work and home to take care of your body and your playbook."

Ward believes the defense is still good but will have to find some young stars.

"They're a team in transition, losing some of the older guys. The marquee names are getting older, and it's time for younger guys to step up.

"On defense, they're still playing good football. They'll always finish in the top five. In the secondary, Keenan Lewis had a big year, Ike Taylor is getting older, and there's a transition. You have to find some young stars to step up their play and allow them to be consistent."