The Pittsburgh Steelers will release longtime wide receiver Hines Ward, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
In January, Ward announced that he was not retiring from football and that he would like to stay with Pittsburgh, if possible. He acknowledged that meant he would have to take a pay cut.
“I’d probably have to restructure my contract,” Ward said of the pay cut. “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.”
Ward earned $4 million in 2011 but said he would restructure the two years remaining on his deal in order to remain with the team. He finished the season with 46 receptions for 381 yards and two touchdowns in 15 games for Pittsburgh.
Update (5:57 p.m.): Both the Steelers and Ward have released statements regarding Ward's release.
“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,” Steelers President Art Rooney II 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.”
“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. 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.”