Should the Pittsburgh Steelers part ways with Hines Ward?
Hines Ward has played his entire career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but that may change if recent rumors that the team is ready to cut ties with their all-time leading receiver are true.
Writers from around Tribune Co. discuss whether the Steelers should part ways with the two-time Super Bowl winner and MVP of Super Bowl XL. Please check back throughout the day for more responses and join the discussion by voting in the poll and leaving a comment of your own.
Sam Farmer, Los Angeles Times
Although Hines Ward is not productive enough to merit the annual $4 million on the remaining two years of his deal, he’s shown a willingness to renegotiate to stay with the Steelers. Simply discarding him would be a mistake.
New offensive coordinator Todd Haley needs to turn his attention to cultivating a relationship with Ben Roethlisberger, who was very close to former OC Bruce Arians, and the young receiving trio of Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown still have room to grow. Each would benefit from the tutelage of the more physical Ward, who -– for the right price -– could have a Charlie Batch-type role of elder statesman, giving Haley and Roethlisberger time to bond. Aside from Ben and Hines, the Steelers are young on that side of the ball.
Yes, the Steelers would be giving up something more than money in keeping Ward -– typically, a team wants its fourth or fifth receiver to play special teams, and the soon-to-be-36-year-old Ward probably isn’t suited for that. But for, say, $1 million a year, he would still be a worthy investment.
There is only one reason the Steelers should bring back Hines Ward next season -- if they believe he can make them a better team. There is no room for sentimentality or loyalty in the NFL. There is only room for progress.
And judging by how the 2011 season went, my guess is the Steelers believe they will be better served using Ward’s roster spot on a younger player. If Ward is going to be a bit player on offense, as he was last season, he would need to be a key contributor on special teams. That is not likely to happen.
At 35, Ward would bring value to the Steelers in terms of leadership and credibility. But that won’t matter if he can’t help the Steelers make first downs and touchdowns.
[Updated at 12:06 p.m.:
Nick Fierro, Allentown Morning Call
No way the Steelers should dump Hines Ward. But then, they probably shouldn't have gotten rid of offensive coordinator Bruce Arians either. In many ways, Ward epitomizes the toughness of the Steelers as a wide receiver who not only doesn't mind doing dirty work, he embraces it.
Whether he's the third or fourth receiver at this stage of his career, Ward is always looking to hammer somebody and spring someone else when he doesn't have the football in his hands. Ward is not too old that he can't contribute, and is too valuable as a player, personality and leader for the Steelers to let him go at this point.
It's hard to imagine a final mix of 53 Steelers without Ward being better in 2012 than it would be with him.]
Photo: Hines Ward skips into the end zone on his way to being named the MVP of Super Bowl XL. Credit: Harry How / Getty Images