All speculation about wideout Hines Ward’s future with the Pittsburgh Steelers ended this afternoon, as the team announced via press release they would be releasing the veteran prior to the start of the 2012 NFL season.
Art Rooney had the following to say to Steelers.com regarding 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.
It’s a sudden move, yet not a surprise, for those who have followed the story closely in recent weeks. After a July 2011 arrest for Driving Under the Influence, Ward recently pleaded guilty to a reckless driving charge to lessen his sentence, which ended up as 12 months probation, 80 hours of community service, and a $2,000 fine.
Ward’s off-field issues combined with a lower standard of production in recent seasons– and the emergence of Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown– made this an easier decision for Art Rooney, Mike Tomlin, and Steelers executives.
A guy with Ward’s ability, however, should find a home with a team that needs an additional, serviceable receiving threat for the 2012 season.
Ward is still a down-field threat and those guys are not a dime-a-dozen by any means.