“We had a conversation today with Hines Ward and informed him that we plan to release him of his contract prior to the start of the 2012 NFL calendar year,” Steelers team president Art Rooney II said in a statement earlier this month. “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.”
A former third-round pick from Georgia, Ward played in Pittsburgh for 14 seasons.
"This isn't how I wanted this chapter of my career to end," Ward said in a statement when he was released. "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. I do feel that I still have more football left in me and I am looking forward to playing in the NFL again this upcoming season."
He's the Steelers' all-time leader in receptions (1,000), receiving yards (12,083), receiving touchdowns (85) and 100-yard receiving games (29).
Ward is the eighth player in NFL history to reach 1,000 career receptions and joined only Hall of Famer Jerry Rice as the only two players in league history to post 1,000 career catches and win multiple Super Bowls.
Ward was the MVP of Super Bowl XL after leading the Steelers to a 21-10 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. He posted a game-high 123 receiving yards on five receptions with one touchdown.
The Steelers’ 2008 Walter Payton Man of the Year, Ward was named to four Pro Bowls and was a member of the Steelers' 75th Season All-Time Team.
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