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It’s Just Business: Steelers Cut Ties with Hines Ward

Hines Ward's smile is irreplaceable. Mandatory Credit: Chris Gardner-US PRESSWIRE

What most thought was inevitability, still stings a little when it became a reality yesterday afternoon.   The Steelers decided to release Hines Ward rather than considering his request to restructure his contract for a pay cut and one more season with the Black & Gold.  This isn’t the first time the Steelers have made “business” decisions like this.  Typically, they’ve been spot-on when it comes to realizing when it’s time to cut ties or hold on for another season.  It doesn’t make it any easier on this Steeler fan’s heart, though.  It’s not every day that a player like Hines Ward is released.

Hines played a noticeably diminished role in the offense this season, often taking a back seat to Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, and Jerricho Cotchery.  Hines had his lowest numbers of his career in spite of hitting the milestones of 1,000 career receptions and over 12,000 career receiving yards.  Hines will most likely always be known by two very distinct traits; his amazing blocking and hard hits, and his ability to deliver those blocks and hits with an infectious smile.  Drafted in the third round in 1998 from Georgia, Hines has missed only 7 games in his 14 seasons with the Steelers.  Hines led the Steelers in receptions for 11 consecutive seasons and broke nearly every single receiving franchise record held by either HOF’ers Swann or Stallworth.

The business side of the NFL often rears its ugly head this time of year.  Although Steeler Nation likes to think of the organization as a family, it’s still a business.  That’s not to say that this decision was about money.  Well, it kind of was since the cut frees up a little over $3 million in cap room, but the front office never even considered a restructure with Ward, which he stated repeatedly he’d be willing to do.  This was a decision based on production.  The Steelers clearly felt that Wards abilities would not be able to contribute to their 2012 success.  That’s the bottom line.  Although Hines feels he still has some football left in him, the Steelers clearly felt that the direction the offense is going into wasn’t going to have room for Ward.

The Steelers have let go of some high-profile and fan-favorite players before.  Most memorably back in 1984 they released HOF’er Franco Harris, who ended up finishing his career with the Seattle Seahawks.  The one time, in my opinion, the Steelers missed on letting a player go to soon was when Rod Woodson reluctantly left as a free agent in 1996.  Woodson went on to win a Super Bowl with the Ravens in 2001.  Alan Faneca, Greg Lloyd, Joey Porter, and Kevin Greene are just a few more names released by the Steelers.  With six Lombardi trophies, you have to think maybe the Steelers know what they’re doing.  They’re still regarded as one of the most respected and well-run franchises in all of sports, not just football.  Releasing players is just another part of the business that is the NFL.

Dec 24, 2011; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Hines Ward waves the Terrible Towel while being introduced prior to the game against the St. Louis Rams at Heinz Field. Mandatory credit: Vincent Pugliese- US PRESSWIRE

Hines released a statement after the news broke stating that he’s looking forward to playing in the NFL in the 2012 season.  All of us selfish Steeler fans would much rather see him hang up the cleats now and tune into whatever NFL Network or ESPN show he’s surely to join in the future.  Seeing Hines in another jersey would be quite odd, but if Hines still wants to play and wants to go through all the offseason preparation, more power to him.  Hines also added in his statement that he will always bleed black & gold and thanked Steeler Nation for their years of support.

I’d like to thank Hines Ward for his 14 seasons of hits on Ed Reed, touchdown dances, and countless smiles after delivering or receiving a violent block.  Hines is without a doubt, in my opinion, a future Hall Of Famer and will always be considered one of the greatest receivers in Pittsburgh Steelers history.

Follow me on Twitter @Kimmy_KimKimM

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  • JennMT

    I still don’t even know what to say, I know I bleed black & gold and ride or die with the Steelers, it’s hard not to get attatched to the players, even though we know they will come & go. @mvp86hinesward was amount the greatest in my opinion!! 

  • SABenfield

    @Kimmy_KimKimM Hines will always be the gold standard for steelers receivers like you said going to be strange seeing him in a different uni

  • ETM

    The Steelers had to do this. Ward had a great run and I hope he can catch on with another team.

  • MarkArmor

    the only reason I can see to do this, this year, is if Cotchery is coming back.  He’s another Hines without the tradition.
    But so far, I haven’t heard anything to suggest that they have him signed to another contract.

  • craig.nicepickcowher

     @MarkArmor Twitter chatter today has Cotchery talking with Steelers and things ‘going well.’  I do disagree with you about Cotchery being another Hines – no way in Hell Cotch can block like Hines.

  • karim

    Wish we knew this was going to happen… Would have been nice to give him a proper send off at the rams game in dec last year….

  • davidrussell

    My take is yes it’s a buisness and the head office has to make some hardcalls.However they get it wrong sometimes and this is one of them.Resigning some other player last year(we know who they are) who werent and arent worth what they are paid was a prime example .Hines has some good football in him and he will show it.I believe the reason his production was down last year was because of that poor excuse we had for an offensive coordinator,not Hines.If you dont put him on the field he cant produce .
    A sad way for a player of his caliber to go out.I pray maybe they will resign him at a later date. 

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