Hines Ward, who has been a thorn in the Baltimore Ravens side for years, won’t be returning to the Pittsburgh Steelers for the 2012 season.
The Steelers announced on Wednesday through the team’s website that they plan to release the wide receiver.
Ward, 35, had just 46 receptions for 381 yards and two touchdowns in 2011, his least productive season since his rookie year in 1998. He was willing to restructure the $4 million he was due in 2012, but the Steelers will cut ties with the franchises all-time leader in catches, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.
Ward, a third-round pick of the Steelers in 1998, had six 1,000 receiving yard seasons, was selected to four pro bowls and was named Super Bowl XL’s Most Valuable Player in the Steelers’ 21-10 defeat over the Seattle Seahawks.
According to Pro Football Reference, in 26 games against the Ravens, Ward caught 108 passes for 1,320 yards and six touchdowns. In the hard-hitting, smash-mouth rivalry between the Ravens and Steelers, Ward made his presence felt through his hard-nosed, aggressive style of play.
As one of the league’s most physical receivers, Ward and multiple Ravens clashed on numerous occasions over the years.
Ravens safety Ed Reed was on the receiving end of a crushing blind-side block during the 2007 season in a Monday night affair in Pittsburgh.
A season later, the Ravens supposedly put a bounty on Ward, but the players publicly sidestepped from that later.
Then in December 2010, Reed complained that Ward cheap-shotted during a game.
However, the Ravens got some revenge near the end of Ward’s days in Pittsburgh, as linebackers Jarret Johnson and Ray Lewis both sidelined Ward with vicious hits.
If this marks the end for Ward, he’ll have totaled 1,000 catches for 12,083 yards and 85 touchdowns for his 14-year career.