During the last few weeks, as Hines Ward pondered a life away from the Steelers after his Feb. 29 release, other franchises showed interest in him. Ward believed that he still could help a team reach a Super Bowl, and the competitor inside of him considered continuing his career elsewhere.
But Tuesday, Ward arrived at the Steelers' South Side practice facility wearing an all-black suit and a gold tie, which made it pretty clear what decision he had come to about his future.
"Today, I'm officially retiring a Pittsburgh Steeler," Ward said. "And as much as I will miss football, my teammates, coaches and everything about the game, I don't want to play it in any other uniform. The black and gold runs deep in me, and I will remain a Steeler for life."
Ward, who holds every significant Steelers record for a wide receiver after 14 seasons, was often emotional during a 25-minute news conference. Sitting in the back row of seats in front of him were former Steelers Jerome Bettis and Aaron Smith and current team members James Harrison and Brett Keisel.
Ward smiled when he saw his former teammates, a handful of the men with whom he won two Super Bowls, but the raw emotions came out when he discussed Steelers fans.
"I spent time reading thousands of e-mails, Facebook posts, tweets, letters, cards and well wishes from fans everywhere," Ward said. "As I read them, I was really moved by the tremendous outpouring of love, encouragement and support from everybody everywhere. It really got to me. Through it all, I realized that there's only one thing I love more than the game, and that's Steeler Nation.
"Without your support over the last 14 years, this game wouldn't be the same to me. Wouldn't be as fun for me. You guys meant the world to me."