The Pittsburgh Steelers are expected to cut 14-year veteran wide receiver Hines Ward, sources told the NFL Network, via ESPN.com.
It’s a decision that is being based not only on money, but production as well.
Ward, 35, lost his starting gig for next season and would most likely return to the team as the No. 4 or even No. 5 receiver. The Steelers seem content on going with younger and faster receivers. Pittsburgh’s top trio of receivers– Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders– all averaged at least 13 yards per catch. Ward’s 46 catches were good for fourth on the team and he averaged just 8.3 yards per catch.
For the Steelers to keep Ward on as a backup receiver makes no sense for both sides. No. 4 and No. 5 receivers are counted on to make contributions in the special teams department, something Ward hasn’t done since his first couple of seasons with the team. That being said, Ward would most likely be inactive for a majority of games in 2012 if Pittsburgh elected to bring him back.
Currently, the Steelers are about $10 million over the salary cap, so cutting Ward would save them $4 million against the cap. Ward was hoping to return to the Steelers for one more season and was even willing to take a pay cut to remain with the team.
At this point, Ward’s future is very much up in the air. If Ward hopes to continue playing in the NFL, there will have to be a team out there that values his experience and leadership and would be willing to bring him in as a No. 3 receiver.