We all knew it was coming but none of us really wanted to face it. It’s just business. That’s the nature of the game. Nothing personal… Use whatever cliché works best for you but the fact remains: The Pittsburgh Steelers Released Hines Ward Wednesday.
No player gets to play forever. George Blanda, Warren Moon, and a handful of kickers have tried to outrun Father Time but to no avail. The feet slow a bit from overuse and injury, the decision making process becomes blunted from repetitive head trauma, and really good players (Hines Ward) play well enough to price themselves out of a job.
The Steelers appear to have handled the Hines Situation with all the aplomb that they’ve handled every other situation this off season; they screwed the pooch. Rumor has it that the news of Hines’ release got leaked to NFL Network Superdouche, Jason LaCanfora, before the Steelers front office was able to tell Ward themselves. Always one to look for a scoop, LaCanfora beat a path to Hines Ward and broke the news to #86 first. Way to stay classy.
Some of the Steelers of my youth got to retire on their own terms. Andy Russell, Rocky Bleier, Joe Greene, and Jerome Bettis all decided for themselves when enough was enough. Other Black and Gold greats had to be brought to the office and informed by Chuck Noll that “It was time to get on with your life’s work”. L.C. Greenwood, Jack Lambert, Terry Bradshaw, and the above pitiful looking Franco Harris, all had that toughest of decisions made for them. The Steelers historically have been great at knowing when a player and their life’s work need to be getting together; the acknowledged exception to that process being the release of Rod Woodson when Rod the God still obviously had a lot of tread still on the tires. That is an excellent track record seeing how every Steelers player, aside from the current roster, has moved on in one fashion or another.
Hines Ward has two Super Bowl rings, a Super Bowl MVP trophy, 12,000 receiving yards and 1000 catches as a Steeler. He is regarded in many circles as the toughest receiver to ever play professional tackle football. Hines Ward has a better than even shot of making his way to Canton. That is an exceptional resume for the little fella with the HUGE chip on his shoulder. But now he has been released by the team that he’s spent all of his 14 NFL seasons with. Hines Ward has one more choice to be made that relates directly to him playing football: when and how he walks away. Will he choose to linger for a season or two, doing spot time on the depth chart? (OR WORSE YET HE COULD WORKOUT FOR A FEW TEAMS AND NOT RECEIVE AN OFFER, which would suck). Mighty Mouse could step tearfully to the podium in the Steelers’ offices and announce his retirement and then step into his life’s work in whatever he chooses. Hines Ward will have no trouble flourishing in his post playing career. Ward will always be a Pittsburgh Steelers fan favorite. Let’s just hope we don’t have to see him sitting on a bench in some other uniform.
Remember Sad Franco…..