An era has ended in Pittsburgh. After 14 years, 1,000 catches, a Super Bowl MVP and four Pro Bowl appearances, the Pittsburgh Steelers announced that Hines Ward will be released from his contract. In a statement on the team's website, Steelers president Art Rooney II praised Ward.
"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's statement was a bit more emotional.
"This isn't 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. To Mr. Rooney, thank you for allowing me to play for one of the greatest organizations in the world. To my fans and in particular, Steeler Nation, thank you for your support and all the great memories. I gave my heart and soul for you every down and I will always bleed black and gold."
Ward added that he believes he still has some football left to play.
During his time with the Steelers, Ward had six seasons with 1,000 yards or more, and his 1,000 catches, 12,083 receiving yards, and 85 touchdowns are franchise records. His blocking was a key part of the Steelers' offensive success through his tenure with the team, and his hard hits were as ever-present as his smile on the sidelines.
Ward earned two Super Bowl rings with Pittsburgh. In 2006, he was named the MVP of Super Bowl XL for making five catches for 123 yards and a touchdown.
Though his time in a Steelers uniform is over, there are plenty of teams who need help at receiver. Fox Sports analysts Jay Glazer pointed out how in recent years, as Ward's catches declined, he went out of way to help the team's younger receivers. A characteristic like could help teams who need guidance for young talent and a tough receiver to add to their corps.
No matter where Ward goes next, he will always be remembered as a Steeler who helped bring the franchise back to perennial contention.
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