Tag:Hines Ward
Posted on: March 2, 2012 10:48 am
 

Farrior's time with Steelers comes to a close

After a decade in Pittsburgh, Farrior will be released. (US Presswire)
By Josh Katzowitz

Yet another longtime Steelers player is done in Pittsburgh. That’s the word from agent Ralph Cindrich, who tweeted Friday morning that his client, linebacker James Farrior, will not be back with the Steelers in 2012.

“#JamesFarrior has been a rock for the #Steelers but the #Turk takes no prisoners -- he's gone,” wrote Cindrich.

The move to release the 15-year veteran who spent the past 10 years in Pittsburgh (he started his career with the Jets in 1997) is only the latest Steelers casualty as the team tries to get under the salary cap so it, we assume, can sign receiver Mike Wallace to a deal.

Already, Pittsburgh has released defensive end Aaron Smith and cleared the roster spot formerly taken by receiver Hines Ward, and as CBSSports.com’s Ryan Wilson points out, linebacker Larry Foote and nose tackle Casey Hampton also are on the potential chopping block.

Since he landed in Pittsburgh in 2002, Farrior has been a consistent force, recording at least 100 tackles in nine of the next 10 seasons. But his production fell off a bit last year, and at the age of 37, he clearly is slowing down. Farrior was due $2.825 million in 2012, the last year of his contract.

And at this point, you have to wonder if Farrior is done altogether from the game.  

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Posted on: March 1, 2012 5:08 pm
 

Report: Steelers to release DE Aaron Smith

Ward and Smith were the two remaining players the organization had drafted in the 1990s. (US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

The Steelers' veteran purge continues: a day after Pittsburgh announced that they would release wide receiver Hines Ward, defensive end Aaron Smith is next in line, according to NFL Network's Jason La Canfora.

NFL News, Notes
Smith, like Ward, was drafted in the 1990s, and was an integral part to the team's success for much of the 2000s. But after starting every game but one from 2000-2006, Smith missed five games in 2007, and played in just 15 games from 2009-11 while he recovered from an assortment of injuries. In Dick LeBeau's 3-4 scheme, the defensive ends aren't pass-rushing specialists; instead, they're responsible for taking on blocks (and often double-teams) while the linebackers behind them make the tackles.

At the height of his career, Smith was considered the prototypical 3-4 end. And while he wasn't a household name, his talents didn't go unnoticed; Patriots head coach Bill Belichick once singled him out as one if his favorite players to watch. But that was before injuries and age caught up to him.

Now 35, Smith's fate doesn't come as a surprise. In four games in 2011, he wasn't nearly the player the Steelers had watched for more than a decade. And with the organization's current salary-cap situation, there were going to be some roster casualties. On Wednesday, it was Ward, one of the best players in team history. Thursday it appears to be Smith. And in the coming weeks and months, linebackers James Farrior and Larry Foote, and nose tackle Casey Hampton could also see their careers in Pittsburgh come to an end.

But the Steelers have been preparing for this day; they drafted defensive linemen Ziggy Hood in 2009 and Cameron Heyward in 2011. Hood started nine games in 2010 and 14 games last season, while Heyward saw action in 16 games as a rookie.

Every offseason comes with player turnover, but the Steelers roster could look much different in 2012, especially if Mike Wallace ends up elsewhere.

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Posted on: March 1, 2012 11:09 am
Edited on: March 2, 2012 12:21 am
 

Report: Steelers will tender Wallace, not tag

Pittsburgh might decide to tender Wallace, a restricted free agent, instead of franchise tagging him. (Getty Images)
By Josh Katzowitz

A day after announcing that they would cut Hines Ward, the Steelers are leaving themselves open for the possibility of another receiver leaving the team.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Steelers will tender -- and not franchise tag -- restricted free agent Mike Wallace.

Wallace is coming off a 72-catch, 1,193-yard, eight-touchdown season in Pittsburgh, where he led the team in all categories. He’s also one of the NFL’s best deep receiver threats, averaging 18.7 yards per catch in his three-year career. At this point, he’s a star in the making.

NFL News, Notes
The Steelers apparently will place a first-round tender on Wallace, but considering Pittsburgh’s salary-cap problems -- how many times is Ben Roethlisberger going to have to restructure his contract, anyway? -- it wouldn’t be a surprise to see another squad swoop in and offer Wallace a deal the Steelers can’t match.

The franchise tag would cost the Steelers about $9.4 million for 2012, and there’s little chance for the math to work. Pittsburgh now has to hope Wallace isn’t seen by the rest of the league as worthy of a first-round pick.

The Steelers claimed during the combine that they want Wallace to finish his career in Pittsburgh, as general manager Kevin Colbert said, “We think he's only scratched the surface in what he can do. There's a lot left there that still can be developed and we're anxious to see it happen as a Steeler."

But if the Steelers do, in fact, decide to tender Wallace instead of tag him, the chances of that actually happening will grow slimmer.

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Posted on: February 29, 2012 5:38 pm
Edited on: February 29, 2012 8:06 pm
 

Steelers set to release WR Hines Ward

Hines Ward was Super Bowl XL MVP and the face of the Steelers  for more than a decade. (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

After 14 seasons, 1,000 receptions and 85 touchdowns, Hines Ward's tenure in Pittsburgh is all but over. It was once a matter of if, now it's when, and team president Art Rooney II provided those details Wednesday.

“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,” Rooney told the team’s website.

“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.”

Ward released a statement of his own (via NFL Network's Andrew Siciliano):

"This isn't how I wanted this chapter of my career to end. I did everything in my power to remain a Steeler and finish what I started here 14 years ago," he said. "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."

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Gerry Dulac tweeted Wednesday that the organization felt that Ward had nothing left.

gerrydulac
Decision to release 86 was not about money. He could've offered to play for free and wouldn't matter. Coaches feel he can't play anymore.
2/29/12 7:12 PM

gerrydulac
Ward would have been Sunday inactive if Steelers kept him. They didn't want him taking a roster spot at expense of developing young player.
2/29/12 7:14 PM

The 2011 season was Ward's worst since his rookie campaign; he lost his starting job to second-year standout Antonio Brown and managed just 46 catches for 381 yards (and a career-worst 8.3 YPC average), and two touchdowns. Part of Ward's decline can be blamed on age (he's 35), but he also suffered a severely sprained ankle in Week 4's loss to the Texans.

Whatever the explanation, the Steelers are ready to move on without him, which means that the 2012 offense will feature quarterback Ben Roethlisberger throwing to Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and Mike Wallace -- assuming the team extends his contract (he won't be franchised, at least to hear general manager Kevin Colbert at last week's combine). The three wideouts, none older than 25, constitute one of the league's most dynamic receiver corps, which should make new offensive coordinator Todd Haley's job a lot easier.

Ward, meanwhile, thinks he has a few years left. It just won't be in Pittsburgh -- unless the team re-signs him later this the summer, perhaps an option given that there are currently three wide receivers on the roster. More likely: the Steelers make a run at Jerricho Cotchery, who they signed to a one-year deal before the 2011 season to be the No. 5 wideout. By December, he had also surpassed Ward on the depth chart and proved to be a capable underneath target and a willing blocker.

While the Steelers continue their free agency and draft preparations, and Ward contemplates his NFL future, the conversation will inevitably turn to the latter's Hall of Fame credentials. In our minds, he's a lock. Then again, we don't have a vote.

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Posted on: February 22, 2012 12:27 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2012 1:07 pm
 

Hines Ward pleads guilty to reckless driving

WardBy Josh Katzowitz

Last July, Steelers receiver Hines Ward was arrested on a DUI charge, an incident that stunned CBSSports.com’s Mike Freeman* because he seems like the exact opposite of the kind of guy who would get himself into that kind of trouble.

Ward’s lawyer denied Ward was impaired by alcohol as he drove, and seven months later, Ward has cut a plea bargain deal with the DeKalb County (Ga.) Solicitor’s office, which has dropped the DUI charge.

In exchange, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports, Ward pleaded guilty Wednesday to reckless driving and no contest to a charge of failing to maintain lane.

Ward was sentenced to 12 months of probation (he’ll be allowed to check in with his officer on the phone or with email since he’ll likely be playing football somewhere in 2012), 80 hours of community service and a $2,000 fine. He’ll also undergo an alcohol evaluation.

*Ravens running back Ray Rice also was mighty displeased by the arrest.

Ward's lawyer, Andy Reed, released this statement afterward (via the Pittsburgh Post Gazette): "We are grateful for the outcome. By dropping the DUI charge, it is clear that the prosecution did not have sufficient evidence to proceed. Hines has always maintained that his ability to drive was in no way impaired and we are pleased that the facts supported his innocence. He is thankful to his legal team and to all who stood by him. Hines has a great respect for the legal system and is also grateful, in particular, to the state for the professional manner in which they handled this matter."

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Posted on: February 11, 2012 10:33 am
Edited on: February 11, 2012 8:22 pm
 

Report: Ward won't return to Steelers in 2012

Ward

By Josh Katzowitz

UPDATED 8:21 p.m. ET: According to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Steelers sources are saying that no decision has been made regarding Hines Ward and his future.

----------

We already knew big changes were coming to the Steelers, whether Ben Roethlisberger wants it or not. Former offensive coordinator Bruce Arians is out; former Chiefs head coach Todd Haley is in as the man who will run Pittsburgh’s offense. And we wonder how much power Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin really has.

Now, it seems like a distinct possibility that one of the organization’s all-time great receivers won’t return for 2012.

That’s according to NFL.com’s Jason La Canfora, who said Friday that with all the contract and salary cap maneuvering the front office is doing, Ward’s $4 million salary and declining productivity might be too much bear and that he won't be back in Pittsburgh next season.

Already, Ward has said he will not retire and that he’d be willing to take a paycut with the Steelers because he wants to stay in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh's offensive upheaval
"I'd probably have to restructure my contract," Ward said last month. "That's fine with me. I recognize that. I'm telling you I want to be here, I'm telling you I'm willing to do that. And I understand the ramifications -- we have the cap number and stuff, but I want to be here."

Even with his reduced role in the Steelers offense -- Ward lost his starting position to Antonio Brown -- the team means so much to him that he’s willing to return for less money and less playing time.

"I'm just looking year to year, but I do want to play next year,” Ward said. “If they decide to part ways, I'll be devastated, but life's not over. I'm still young.

"My thing is, I want to be a Steeler, I'm here, I'm willing to restructure, do whatever. I don't want to be seen in another uniform but, if they decide to part ways, or whatever, I don't know, I'm not even thinking like that. I couldn't even fathom myself [in another uniform], but I still want to play football.”

Look for something to happen with Ward soon. If he’s still on the Steelers roster on March 1, he’s guaranteed to earn his 2012 salary. It’s seeming more likely, though, that if Ward wants to continue his illustrious career, he’ll have to do so somewhere other than Pittsburgh.

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Posted on: February 2, 2012 4:10 pm
 

Ward, Graham, Gonzalez unite for documentary

Follow all of CBSSports.com's Full Super Bowl Coverage (Ryan Wilson, CBSSports.com)

By Josh Katzowitz

INDIANAPOLIS -- Three of the game best receivers -- one who is a surefire Hall of Famer, one who is potential Hall of Famer and one who’s one of the best up-and-comers in the league -- sat in a conference room on the first floor of the JW Marriott on Thursday afternoon and compared stories.

Of how they grew up, of the obstacles they faced and of how they overcame those barriers to become successful athletes.

Steelers receiver Hines Ward faced racial epithets because he is half-Korean. Saints tight end Jimmy Graham faced the loneliness of living in foster homes. Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez reminisced about the bullies that used to terrorize his childhood.

All came together to promote a documentary that will air Feb. 10 on the USA Network called “NFL Characters Unite” in which Ward, Graham, Gonzalez and Tony Dungy meet school-age kids facing the same circumstances they did when they grew up.

“We were impressed with the candor and depth the players showed,” said producer Charlie Ebersol. “The effect was profound.”

The four were introduced to children whom they could help and give advice about how to deal with their life trials, particularly since the foursome had tough times living out their own childhoods. Dungy quit his high school football team his senior year because of racial discrimination, and Gonzalez feared leaving his house because of two older kids who picked on him constantly.

“It was very personal for me,” Graham said. “The things that (his adolescent partner) went through were a lot more than I went through. His father and brother were murdered, his mother was on drugs. The people who were supposed to have been there for him and love him weren’t there.”

Ward worked with a Pittsburgh-area high school student named Carlton Dennis, who wrote a song called “City of Prayer.” Through their documentary’s producers, he was flown to Los Angeles to lay down the track in a music studio. It’s available today on iTunes and is featured in the documentary. Ward heard the full song for the first time Thursday, and he immediately pictured one image.

“I can just see the smile on his face,” Ward said. “That’s all he wanted to do.”

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Posted on: January 11, 2012 10:12 pm
 

Ward says he'll take paycut to stay in PIT

Ward

By Josh Katzowitz

Here’s how badly Steelers receiver Hines Ward wants to continue playing professional football. Not only does he seem content to play a backup role in the Pittsburgh offense -- which is essentially what he was doing in the second half of the season -- but he also said he’s willing to take a paycut to do it.

He has two seasons left on a contract that is scheduled to pay him $4 million in 2012 and 2013, but if he has to lose some of that money, he’s OK with it.

"I'd probably have to restructure my contract," Ward said, via the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. "That's fine with me. I recognize that. I'm telling you I want to be here, I'm telling you I'm willing to do that. And I understand the ramifications -- we have the cap number and stuff, but I want to be here."

Steelers season over
If the Steelers want to cut Ward -- who is still a solid slot receiver but whose play fell off in a big way in 2011 -- they’d have to do so by March 1 or guarantee the full 2012 money. But it sounds like Ward, who will be 36 by the beginning of next season, really wants to stay in Pittsburgh. Like, really, really wants to stay.

"Obviously, I was a starter, and then it went the way it did,” Ward said. “That's fine, I don't have a problem with not starting. But I want to play, I want to try to win another Super Bowl. I want to do it for this organization. I want to help this team out. I still think I can help this team, on the field, off the field with the younger guys, still be there for the team. I'm willing to do all that."

And if the Steelers don’t want him back, well, Ward is still not planning to retire. He’ll move on somewhere else.

"I'm just looking year to year, but I do want to play next year,” Ward said. “If they decide to part ways, I'll be devastated, but life's not over. I'm still young.

"My thing is, I want to be a Steeler, I'm here, I'm willing to restructure, do whatever. I don't want to be seen in another uniform but, if they decide to part ways, or whatever, I don't know, I'm not even thinking like that. I couldn't even fathom myself [in another uniform], but I still want to play football.”

Even if it's at a reduced clip and a reduced rate.

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