The waiting game: Hines Ward puts ball in Steelers' court
February 3, 2012 10:00 AM
Wide receiver Hines Ward told coach Mike Tomlin and team president Art Rooney II that he would like to return to the Steelers next season.
By Ed Bouchette Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
INDIANAPOLIS -- Hines Ward talked to Mike Tomlin on Monday at the Steelers facility on the South Side and to team president Art Rooney II earlier, letting them know he wants to play in 2012 in Pittsburgh.
"I just wanted to let them know I want to be here, I want to play," said Ward, who on Sunday will be part of NBC's five-hour Super Bowl pregame show. "I have two years on my contact. I know I have to restructure, but, under the circumstances, I think I can still play football."
The '11 season was difficult for the veteran receiver. He was benched as a starter and buried deep on the depth chart for the Nov. 13 game against Cincinnati, then reinstalled as the starter in the next game against Kansas City. Ultimately, a concerted and successful effort was made to provide him with the opportunity to make his 1,000th career reception in the regular-season finale in Cleveland.
Ward maintained throughout the season that he wanted to play in '12. The unknown is whether the Steelers want him. He said he received no specific indication from Rooney and Tomlin about their intentions but got somewhat of a feeling they want him back.
"We have so many issues, we're $30 million over the cap," Ward said. "We have to figure a way to get that down. My cap number is not huge if I restructure [$4 million in salary]. There's like 10 other guys they have to get.
"They really didn't say [definitively]. It wasn't good, it wasn't bad. We were just talking."
Ward, the most prolific and decorated Steelers receiver of all time, opened his 14th season as he did the previous 12, as one of two starters. He caught 20 passes in his first five games but finished with 46, the lowest total since his rookie season in 1998.
Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, thought to be the one who recommended Ward be demoted, did not have his contract renewed by the Steelers and accepted a job Monday as offensive coordinator of the Indianapolis Colts.
"I'm not going to get into whatever happened last season," Ward said of his demotion.
"I don't think about Bruce leaving. I wish him nothing but the best. I don't know if he was an obstacle. I was a player, he was the coach, they made decisions, and I moved on. I don't have anything negative to say, I'd just rather not say anything."
Ward, who turns 36 March 8, had surgery to remove bone fragments from his right ankle. He will resume working out Monday at home in suburban Atlanta toward what he hopes will be his 15th season with the Steelers.