The Steelers have told Hines Ward they plan to release him before the 2012 season, according to the team's website.
Steelers.com announced the news with the following comment from owner Art Rooney II:
"Hines has been an integral part of our success since we drafted him in 1998 and we will forever be grateful for what he has helped us achieve. He has meant so much to this organization, both on and off the field, and we appreciate his efforts over the past 14 years. Hines’ accomplishments are numerous, and he will always be thought of as one of the all-time great Steelers. We wish him nothing but the best.”
Ward will finish his Steelers career with exactly 1,000 catches to lead the franchise. He also leads the Steelers in all-time receiving yards (12,083), receiving touchdowns (85) and 100-yard receiving games (29). The MVP of Super Bowl XL is a four-time Pro Bowler.
Ward has two years remaining on his contract. When he's officially released, the Steelers will pare $3.39 million from their salary cap.
Ward hopes to continue playing elsewhere and issued the following statement:
"This is not how I wanted this chapter of my career to end. I did everything in my power to remain a Steeler and finish what I started here 14 years ago.
"I want to thank the organization, my teammates and coaches and everyone who made my run as a Steeler the best years of my life."