Wednesday is a Leap Day that will never be forgotten in the eyes of many Pittsburgh Steelers fans as it will be remembered as the day that we all officially found out that veteran wide receiver Hines Ward would be released after 14 seasons of wearing the black and gold. Steelers beat writer Ed Bouchette reports that sources told him that Ward was not offered a pay-cut to stay and you can see that this was never about the money for the Steelers. Instead it was about whether or not they thought Ward fit into their plans going forward. Obviously they didn\’t. Several of you do not like the decision and are very angry right now, so all I can tell you is that in my opinion it was the right move and just part of the business of the NFL. We will never, ever, ever forget Hines.
Now that the cord has been cut, let\’s walk through what we should expect next and very soon at that.
After the Ward release the Steelers are down to just two wide receivers under contract that played for the team in 2011. They are of course Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders. Arnaz Battle, who was really just a special teams ace, was jettisoned a while ago and Jerricho Cotchery is an unrestricted free agent. Some guy named Mike Wallace is also a restricted free agent. Remember him? Now ask yourself this question. Do you really think they would have released Ward with any uncertainty lingering in their mind that Wallace would not be back in a Steelers uniform in 2012? Think about it. The reason they released Ward is because they know they have Wallace locked up. There will be no franchise tag. Their will be no first round tender. What there will be is a new contract. That has been my thought for some time now and I passed it along prior to the combine beginning.
Recapping my post from a while ago, Art Rooney II said Wallace would be a priority after the 2011 season, yet after all of this time, nobody believes him. General Manager Kevin Colbert emphatically said this past week at the NFL combine that they hold the cards in regards to Wallace and that both sides want him to return to Pittsburgh. Nobody seems to believe Colbert either. The Steelers have trimmed over $29 million off of the 2012 salary cap with surgical precision. They have been waiting to get the confirmed number of what the 2012 salary cap number will be, but you can\’t tell me that they, and every other team in the league for that matter, did not already have a pretty good notion as to what that number will be. This is the NFL for heaven sakes.
On the flip side, they had to get 100% confirmation on that official number before any more moves or new deals could be made. Before any tenders to the restricted free agents are made. It\’s great business practice. The ground work that is taking place this week has been paved for a few weeks now. They have that cap number now, and now the dominoes are beginning to fall. Ward was the first one to fall this week and there are sure to be a few more as well. Colbert admitted as much. One domino that will surely fall now is a new contract for Wallace before March 5th.