The Steelers said they will release wide receiver Hines Ward before the start of the 2012 National Football League season after two Super Bowl wins in Pittsburgh.
“This isn’t how I wanted this chapter of my career to end,” Ward said yesterday in a statement released after the Steelers’ announcement. “I did everything in my power to remain a Steeler and finish what I started here 14 years ago.”
Ward, 35, is the Steelers’ career leader in receptions (1,000), yards receiving (12,083) and touchdown catches (85). He is one of eight players in NFL history with 1,000 receptions.
Ward was the Most Valuable Player of the 2006 Super Bowl, in which he had 123 yards receiving and a touchdown to lead the Steelers to a 21-10 victory against the Seattle Seahawks. He also played on the Pittsburgh team that won the 2009 Super Bowl.
“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,” Steelers President Art Rooney II told the team’s website. “He will always be thought of as one of the all-time great Steelers.”
A native of Seoul, Ward signed an extension during the 2009 offseason to keep him with the team through 2013. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported in January that his contract, which called for $8 million in salary over the next two years, stipulated that the receiver must be released or guaranteed his job with the Steelers by March 1.
“To my fans and in particular, Steeler Nation, thank you for your support and all the great memories,” Ward said. “I gave my heart and soul for you every down and I will always bleed black and gold.”