PITTSBURGH – After taking a few weeks to think about things and
after speaking with friends and former teammates and after taking in an outpouring from fans, Hines Ward came to the
decision that he couldn’t imagine himself playing for any team other
than the Pittsburgh Steelers.
So instead of seeking to play elsewhere, Ward tearfully announced his
retirement Tuesday at the Steelers headquarters, three weeks after the
team released him following 14 seasons in a Pittsburgh uniform.
“I can say I’m a Steeler for life and that’s the bottom line, that’s
all I’ve really ever wanted,” said Ward.
With current and former Steelers Jerome Bettis, Aaron Smith, James Harrison and Brett Keisel among those in attendance at Ward’s
announcement, Ward thanked the organization, his teammates and fans for
“You guys have given me the best years of my life and I will never
forget that,” Ward said. “As I close this chapter of my life, I want to
thank you guys from the bottom of my heart.”
Ward retires as the Steelers’ all-time leader in a number of receiving
categories, including catches (1,000), yards (12,083) and touchdown
receptions (85). He was also a four-time Pro Bowl player, member of
three Super Bowl teams and was the MVP of Super Bowl XL.
“I want my legacy here to say 'You know what, he was one hell of a
football player who gave it his all,'” the 36-year-old Ward said. “I’m
truly blessed. I played in three Super Bowls, won two Super Bowls, was
Super Bowl MVP. What more could a player want out of his entire
Well, for Ward it had been the possibility of one more season.
Though his role diminished greatly in 2011, he felt he could contribute
at least one more season, going as far as to offer to take a pay cut to
remain with the Steelers, the team that selected the former University
of Georgia star in the third round of the 1998 draft.
But the Steelers decided it was time to move on, not only with Ward,
but a number of other veterans as well. In addition to releasing Ward,
the Steelers have also cut Smith, James Farrior and Chris Hoke, four
players who helped the team to three Super Bowls and two championships
in the past decade.
“It’s the end of an era,” Ward admitted. “We put in a lot of years
together. Hopefully, we established something here for the younger
“Our goal every year is to win a Super Bowl. It's not like that in a
lot of places. ... Hopefully, we left that lasting impression on the guys
Though Ward began the 2011 season as a starter, his playing diminished
greatly with the emergence of third-year veteran Mike Wallace and
second-year receiver Antonio Brown, both of whom were voted to the Pro
Bowl last season.
Ward finished the 2011 season with just 46 receptions, his fewest since
his rookie season.
Ward spoke highly of the receiving corps he leaves behind.
“I know the wideouts are going to be in great hands,” he said. “They’re
full of talent.”
Ward was full of talent as well, including off the field.
With his infectious smile and personality, last spring he was a
contestant on “Dancing With the Stars,” a competition he won. He also
served as an interviewer at this year’s Oscars, and could pursue a
career in front of the camera, just as his mentor, Bettis, has. But his desire to play football is still great.
“I feel like I have a few more good years in me left,” Ward said. “I
would love nothing more to get back to the Super Bowl.”
But what he did not want to do was put on another team’s uniform.
“I want to go down as one of the greats to wear the black-and-gold and
that’s how it should end,” Ward said.
(Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.)