The Pittsburgh Steelers informed veteran wide receiver Hines Ward, defensive end Aaron Smith and linebacker James Farrior of their releases last week and on Monday General Manager Kevin Colbert and Head Coach Mike Tomlin sat down with Bob Labriola of Steelers Digest for a live interview on steelers.com to answer a few questions about the release of all three players and their thoughts on what made all three players so special.
Labriola started of the interview by asking Colbert what convinced him that it was time to part ways with Ward, Smith and Farrior and Colbert replied, “You just look at where your organization stands and you look at where those players are in their careers and you try to judge what combination of team, or players on our team, can we move forward with to best secure our chance to win a world championship. When you talk about guys like Hines and Aaron Smith and James Farrior, you\’re talking about three significant contributors to our past, to our legacy. They\’ve all helped us win those Super Bowls in the past, but what we have to judge is what\’s the best collection of players we can have to win those Super Bowls in the future.”
Tomlin was then asked by Labriola what the procedure was that the team went through to come to the conclusion to release these Ward, Smith and Farrior. Tomlin replied, “Obviously it\’s a very sensitive procedure for us; we\’ve got such a level of respect for those men. Not only in terms of what they provided us on the football field, but who they are as people. I think the key thing that Kevin said, was moving forward. I think this time of year that\’s what you always do, you access where you are as a football team and what your needs are moving forward to make us as competitive as we can be. Of course moving forward into 2012, our desires are to be what they always are, which of course is to put ourselves in play for the world championship. So we\’re going through our normal procedure in terms of doing what we deem necessary to put together the very best team that we can for 2012. Unfortunately it\’s a natural element of this game in this business. It has been and will continue to be that there is going to be change and they were part of that.”
The conversation then moved to Labriola asking the Steelers general manager about what made those three players so special to which Colbert replied, “You know I think they were unique individuals from a team standpoint. As great as they were individually as players, each one of those were a special person, a special leader of the group. You know James Farrior came in from the outside and over time and as progression, as Jerome Bettis retired and Joey Porter moved on, James emerged as that leader. Hines Ward, the thing you always remember about Hines, was him putting a piece of tape on his helmet that said Ward on it, because every year he had something to prove. And every year he did go out of his way to continue to prove himself, not only to the outside world, but to his own team mates. And Aaron Smith was as easy of a player to take for granted, as anybody, but the job he did not only contributed in his own play, he also made everybody around him better because he played so well within the scheme. So I think each individual, as great as they were individually, collectively and what they meant to your team was even greater than their contributions as a player.”
Tomlin was asked his thoughts as well by Labriola on what made all three players so special. Tomlin replied, “You know I think all three our special. I think you don\’t have the kind of careers that they had without being special. I think it\’s easy for me when you talk about what separates them from others individually. I think we\’re you\’re talking about Hines Ward, your talking about his will, The way he forces his will on situations and circumstances, and his ability to do that. He could will himself to acceptable health. He could will himself to produce plays and so forth. I think he has a unique will in a business among men that have a unique will. I think he separates himself even within that field in that way. I think when you talk about Aaron Smith; you talk about a guy who had a unique ability to appreciate it, while he was living it. Often times most people appreciate something after it\’s in their rear view. The thing that I\’ll remember most about Aaron, and really loved about Aaron, is he smelled the roses. He realized how special this journey and this experience was, and he appreciated it while he was living it. When you\’re talking about James Farrior, I think he has unique leadership ability in terms of bringing people together. When you look at a NFL locker room, particularly one such as ours, we have people at different phases of life. You have some guys who are in their 30\’s, married, stable and with kids. You have some people who are just beginning adult hood, if you will. Going from being dependents to independents, from amateurs to professionals. James Farrior is the type of personality that is capable of bringing all of these people together under one common goal and I think that is a unique leadership trait. I think we all know what these guys are as players. I think that their resumes and the tape speaks for themselves in that regard. But those are three things that I think about those guys that maybe the fan or the casual person doesn\’t see, that doesn\’t turn up on tape that really adds to them and who they are and why we love them and what made them special.”
You can read more from the Monday interview session on steelers.com.