Ward\’s Return In 2012 Has Mixed Reactions From Fans

By Christina Rivers

Ultimately, it may be the salary cap,  salary restructuring or just simply an assessment that the team needs to move on that decides Hines Ward\’s fate and whether he will remain with the Pittsburgh Steelers and retire as a member of the team.  A lot of analysis around the league and media circles has gone into how, even if he were to remain with the team, he\’d be relegated to the position of a receiver on the special teams.  The fact that Steelers fans love the play and service Ward has given to the Steelers has never been in doubt.  The discussion, however, has divided fans into two very distinct groups; those who are begging the organization to keep him, and those who are saying \’good job, but it\’s time to go\’.

On Tuesday, Steelers Depot released an article that reacted to speculation by NFL.com reporter Jason Canfora.  Canfora stands by his statements that Ward will not return to the Steelers roster unless the team first cuts him and then hires him back at the veteran minimum in pay.  Comments ranged from, “Can’t play forever. Time to go.” to “Hines, love ya, but in reality, keeping you would not be the best move for the Steelers. This frees up room to keep Cotchery, a similar mold with more speed…assuming he’s willing to stay.”  This group of Steelers fans seems to think that Ward\’s time to hang up his cleats in now.

Then there are die-hard Hines Ward fans who have sent a petition to the Steelers organization and the Rooneys via change.org.   The petition letter reads:

It is very important to any member of the Steeler Nation that Hines Ward stay a part of the “family”. He is a beloved person to all fans, the city of Pittsburgh and the Steelers. We have to let our voices be heard, so Hines Ward\’s home will be with the Steelers until he retires!

As of Feb. 15, the petition had received 2344 signatures, according to the site.  Those who signed the petition feel that Ward is an asset the Steelers can\’t afford to lose.

The results of the petition, so far, don\’t live up to the words in the letter – that it is “very important to any member of the Steeler Nation” that Ward remain with the team, especially considering the enormity of the fan-base that the Steelers have.

The debate hasn\’t been heated, but has definitely caused mixed reactions among fans.  There are valid arguments on both sides as to whether or not the Steelers organization should put Ward back on the roster in 2012 – even if it is just for one more season.

The question is:  What will one more season do for Ward or the Steelers?

I am definitely a Hines Ward fan.  He has out-performed every expectation I have ever had for him.  He\’s personable, he\’s a champion and he has an overall attitude that makes me like him as a person, not just a player.  Although I am not officially a part of the organization, I can see why the Steelers would be conflicted by any decisions regarding Ward\’s future.  He\’s made his mark and most-definitely will be a future Hall-of-Fame player.  Like many fans, I\’d love to see him around for another season.  However, I am not sure that a single season will make any deeper of an impact on his life or on the overall strength of the Steelers\’ team.

I\’ve never felt comfortable with open speculation about how the Steelers should operate their organization.  They\’ve been very successful at finding players to fill necessary holes or deepen depth charts with effective hiring methods.  I will disagree with one point that has been made, and it is that Jerricho Cotchery is in a better position to stay than Ward.  Cotchery and Ward are similarly-styled players.  Cotchery doesn\’t really have a shelf-life much different than Wards either.  It may make sense to release both of them and hire a younger receiver.

While the fans debate each other over the necessity of Ward remaining with the team, the air they use to express their opinions may be wasted.  Even if Ward isn\’t signed again for 2012, fans should remember that the Steelers want to win.  They should also realize that at some point a player\’s career truly is over.  Whether this is the case or not, fans will most likely keep up the debate until the official word is given.

About the Author

Christina L. Rivers

Born in 1972, Christina L. Rivers follows in her maternal Grandmother’s shoes as a writer. Christina is currently a journalist for Examiner.com, and writes for several blogs. She has recently been added as a writer for SteelersDepot and ‘The Beam’ in Pittsburgh. Christina’s favorite Steelers players of all-time are Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Jerome Bettis, Ben Roethlisberger, Troy Polamalu and LaMarr Woodley. She is active on Twitter @3Rivers_Writer. Christina also enjoys collecting NFL cards, and has over 5,000 individual Steelers cards, some as old as the late 1950s.

  • In just a little over 48 hours my Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/we.support.hines.ward had over 3500 new “likes” to the page, and reached over 1,000,000 people according to my statistics on the page. Only 4 people posted about how it was time for Hines to go. Have you also checked out Coach Tomlin’s page? You can’t judge the support for Hines by the Petition that may have not “got out there” enough. And the reasonings for keeping Hines is not sentimentality alone. We see the value in keeping Hines for what he can contribute to the team.

  • Eric87

    hines may be a bit slower, but the guy can find the open zone and is a first down magnet. Ward is also quite the target inside the 10 yard line. the steelers should def. keep him around for 1 more season as the 4th guy at the lowest possible price. Every team needs that possession guy, speed isnt always everything. Hines is one of the best steelers ever and my favorite all time. Should be given a position on the coaching staff followind this season!

  • JerryCola

    Ward is old, slow and done and can’t beat man to man coverage. Most of his receptions, especially in the 2nd half of the year were passes at or behind the line of scrimmage including his 1000th. Whatever blocking prowess he may possess is totally useless as a 4th or 5th WR when he will be playing on obvious passing downs. Father Time beats everyone eventually.

  • JamesH

    Hines has provided us with so much enjoyment over the years that it becomes easy for emotional attachment to cloud our judgement. Trying to keep my heart out of it, I see value in keeping him one more year at the veteran minimum in the number 4 or 5 spot for this primary reason: Inside the 10 yard line, Heath and Hines are still our best options. Soft hands and good blocking, they can contribute no matter what the play call. It is obvious that the Young Money Trio are the guys you go to until you get there, but I haven’t seen them prove yet that they can fight for the tough yardage the way Hines can. I want other teams’ defenses to have to suddenly think “uh-oh, Hines just came in.”

    Ideally, we find a spot for him, he actually contributes here and there, doesn’t embarrass himself, the last grab of his career is a big TD catch in the Super Bowl, and then he retires. How does that sound?

  • Daddeeekip

    JC we will agree to disagree but if Hines is a 4th or 5th WR wich means he will draw 4th CB, S or LB and IMO would be a mismatch in favor of Hines.

  • Joe D

    Keeping Hines is one thing… but at what price… they didn’t answer that question.
    Surely not 4million..
    Most who say keep him are looking for him to take a paycut to 1million so that statistic is not in the numbers above. Not a good poll!!!
    1. Keep him at 4million
    2. Keep him at 1million but Cut him if he won’t take 1million
    3. Cut him… period.. end of discussion.

    I favor #2 above…

  • Joe D

    Ask the question another way…
    do you want to keep hines at $4million and not have enough money due to CAP and unable to keep Wallace??
    Keep Hines but lose Wallace..

    Like I said, poor article… poor stats… Christiana…

  • JerryCola

    Who do you think was covering Hines last year near the end of the year, All-Pros? It was the 4th or 5th CB that the Steelers didn’t send him out against in normal WR routes and instead gave him bubble screens at and behind the line of scrimmage just to get him 1000 receptions. And now we’re supposed to believe next year this will be a mismatch in Hines favor. That’s brilliant.

  • Nanatolaree

    Completely agree JamesH. Way too many points were left in the red zone last year. While everyone talks about our great young receivers, there is still work to be done with them as shown half way through the season. And now with the OC coming in, we need the veteran in there to help with the transition.

  • SteelerNan

    Hines has already stated he would restructure, so that’s a moot point.

  • Stevegeddes

    Hines show Steelers Nation on the side lines how to stand there with dignity and class knowing should be out there wearing are NO. 86

  • Stevegeddes

    Thanks well spoken !!

  • Eric87

    I would say that arains brilliance was the fault of not having hines in the game when he needed to be. He isnt going to be an every down receiver, but that doesn’t mean the man can’t catch slants falling into the endzone or past the 1st down marker, both key elements to why the team failed last season!

  • SteelerElder39

    I am absolutely in agreement with JamesH. Hines still has plenty to offer the Steelers. I believe he’d block his own mother to advance a team mate down the field, albeit a little more gently. He is still a sure-handed receiver. He’ll FIGHT for any reception, especially from 5 yards in. The man bleeds BLACK & GOLD!! Last time I checked, the Cap problem wasn’t just Hines’ fault. There are others making around 4 million who can’t stop opposing rushers. I agree, as does Hines, that 4 mil Is Too Much. I would offer him the “minimum”, plus some package of performance incentives. In my opinion, he’s got at least that much and more to offer!!!

  • SteelerElder39

    Christina, I sure am glad you stayed “in the game girl”. There’s a lot more discussion than the comments posted here! When is the last time anyone created a petition to keep a STEELER player? KUDOS to those TRUE FANS who did.

  • JerryCola

    Let’s hope Haley is smart enough to realize there are better and faster WR options for first downs and touchdowns on this team with Wallace, Brown, Sanders, Cotchery (if he re-signs), Miller, Saunders (if he is not released) rookie WR or even a low-level free-agent.

    As I said in prior posts, Ravens got rid of older players last year such as Derrick Mason and Todd Heap and we all saw how their younger and faster WR were enough to catapault them past the Steelers beating them twice.

    Steelers need to do the same with Ward, Farrior, Smith, etc.

  • Bill

    Why did they express to Hines that they wanted and valued him by signing him for the three year contract. A contract is a contract and for all Hines has done for the team, they should honor it. They are known to be owners of a team which values integrity. Old? Yes but probably the reciever who is the most consistant on the team as well as still having the moves. Everyone says he has lost a step. He said he never had a step.

  • I think JamesH is right. Hines still has a role to play that the Young Money Family is still too, well, young to play, so for me it is not hard to say, he’s given us so much as a Steeler, I want to see him retire as one. If I think he’s pulling a Brett Favre, I’ll rethink that position, but for now, that is not the case in my mind.

  • Seadoovet

    There is a BIG difference between restructure and a pay CUT. Hines needs to take a significant pay cut to stay. The point is not moot.

  • JamesH

    Let me add that the Steelers don’t owe Hines a thing. Finding a roster spot for him at the veteran minimum is just a smart business decision.

  • Ward rode the bench most of the year while Bruce Arians high flying circus act ran up and down the field but can’t score. REMEBER, Wards 1000 catches over half those catches were in the RedZone. Redzone? What’s that??? Score points??? If Bruce was worth his salt he would have used Ward in the redzone. Wallace and Sanders are lost in the redzone. Brown is another Ward but with plenty of speed. He will get open like Ward does. You can’t blame Ward for a bad year performance wise if you are on the bench and not getting any catches. Ben and Bruce were into the highlight reel on ESPN and not hitting the short passes and moving the chains and winning games. Glad Bruce is gone. Ward should stay another year and play when needed and continuie to coach the young guys. They love him and come to him aftyer every play.

    YES!!!! Hines Ward should stay another year.


  • PA2AK

    he would restructure…but also said he won’t take less than $2mil. sorry…#4 or 5 on the depth chart doesn’t make 2 mil. Keep in mind that every roster spot on this team is critical. Steelers don’t usually do the free agent thing. Every overpaid, under-performing veteran on the team take a spot away from one of the future contributors. I’m a huge fan of Hines. Hopefully he will take the league minimum. I don’t see him playing special teams and no one can afford $2-4mil for someone who is a #4or5 on the depth chart that doesn’t even play special teams…just sayin.

  • Unicorntmb

    Give him a break.. Everyone has a bad year… Look at Ben. He wasn’t at his best this year,

  • PA2AK

    I would like to see him stay. I think most Steeler fans would. He can be an asset, but at what price. If he won’t accept $1mil…I don’t see that the Steelers are in a position to keep him.

  • Lekraus

    i am very conflicted on this issue. i hope if the steeler’s don’t sign him they offer him a coaching spot as a wide receiver coach. he is by far the epitome of everything steeler’s. you see a big run by a back you will see ward taking out a db to help spring him. there is two ways he can stay one as a minimum salary veteran the other is as a coach. i don’t care which he stay’s as just as long as he stays.

  • I’ll never leave the game SteelerElder39

  • Why poor article Joe? The only stats I gave were the ones the petition offered as to how many had signed it.

  • I was going by the stats reported on the day I wrote this article. At that time, it only said there were 2344 signatures. I am sure it has ‘reached’ more people than that, but they need to add their John Hancock if they’re serious. BTW – I did mention that I am a Ward fan and that I’d like to see him around. Playing devil’s advocate – the debate over whether he should stay or go is being discussed by fans, writers, journalists, etc. I’d hate to lose him because I think he’s a great player, but the issue won’t be decided by me. I do applaud you for setting up the petition, and yes, I signed it.

  • Also, Tracey, I was referring to the petition started by Val Parker. I just checked their signatures, and it says “2793” out of 5000. I am sure that your Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/We.Support.Hines.Ward has better numbers because I can see 5,387 like this and 7,963 talking about this on the page.
    As far as sentimentality goes – who doesn’t love Ward. He could light Heinz Field with his smile.

  • can you tell me where he said no less than 2M? I’ve yet to see a specific number stated by him.

  • I actually didn’t set up the Petition, a different supporter of Hines did. I just posted it on the page for anyone who wanted to sign it could. I took no offense at your article at all, just wanted to clarify that the petition alone didn’t show how much support he does have. You always do a great job.

    Tracey Sommers Cochran


    Rehire Hines Ward. The team won’t be worth watching without him. If they don’t, then I hope he goes to the Ravens and helps beat the sorry tails off the Steelers next year. I WAS a huge Steeler’s fan but this has totally made me rethink who I am giving my loyalty to. The huge ingratitude of the Rooneys and Mike Tomlin has given me a new opinion of the team. Hiring Todd Haley also gave me a new opinion. Seeing a guy abuse players on the sidelines in public, acting like a POed and out of control kindergartner does nothing for me. I have no respect for a grown man (supposedly grown man) who can’t keep himself under control and show respect for his team.

    Hines could be the WR receiver coach. He’s highly respected and has a lot to give,. That the Steelers couldn’t figure that out shows what kind of people the Rooneys really are.


  • GoHines!

    Fans can vote with their feet. Watch ticket sales plummet. There is always a turning point for everything. Looks like the Steelers just hit theirs. Remember NetFlix? They were golden too, until they made a bad business decision that customers would not tolerate. Same here.

    All the shmooze in the world that the organization publishes about how wonderful they think Hines Ward is is shown for what it is by the simple fact that they fired him – and he is the “face” of the Steelers.

    They think it was a good business decision. Fans think it was a very bad one. When businesses are sold, part of the price is for “good will.” The Steelers just lost theirs, making their value far far less in the eyes of people who used to care about them..

    They also think hiring Todd Haley was a good business decision. So far, fans don’t think so. Any guy who disrespects players to the extent he does is not a good business decision. It simply furthers the opinion that the organization does not respect the players – who, after all, are what make the team what it is.

    The Steelers are decimating their organization and turning everyone against them for no longer adhering to their own ethics and standards. I went out yesterday and was around hundreds of people. NOT ONE was wearing black and gold. NOT ONE! That was a first. I saw Penguins shirts, but not one single Steeler shirt, emblem, piece of jewelry – nothing at all.

    Mistreating Hines Ward is the absolute last straw.

  • Beaverbee

    Please keep Hines!