Bires: Business is business, so Ward has to go
Mike Bires Times Sports Staff | Posted: Wednesday, February 29, 2012 11:00 pm
After the Steelers announced that Hines Ward would be cut, my mind flashed back to the summer of 1984. That's when Chuck Noll uttered that famous "Franco who?" quote.
That was Noll's stone-faced reaction when asked about Harris' holdout over a contract dispute.
Harris may have been one of the greatest Steelers ever and the man responsible for the most famous play in NFL history (that would be the "Immaculate Reception," of course). But his time was up in Pittsburgh, so he was unceremoniously cut and forced to finish his career with a year in Seattle.
Such is life in the NFL where business is business.
That's why Ward had to go.
No doubt Ward will forever be revered in Steeler Nation as one of the most productive and popular players to ever wear the Black & Gold but no longer does he fit into the Steelers' plans.
Ward may be the Steelers' all-time leading receiver and holder of numerous team records, but he's only a shell of the player he once was. The Steelers are going with youth as in Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders (yes, the Steelers will find a way to keep Wallace, a restricted free agent, in the fold).
Obviously, the Steelers are going to get $4 million in salary-cap relief when Ward is cut. But despite his pleas to stay for one more year at a reduced pay rate, the Steelers just don't want him around.
The "Young Money" trio no longer needs Ward's leadership.
Late this past season when it was apparent that Ward was being fazed out -- he lost his starting job in the Nov. 13 game at Cincinnati and played less and less as the season went on -- he said he wasn't about to retire.
Ward said he wanted to play at least one more year even if it meant playing somewhere else in a different uniform.
Ward may end up someplace. There may be a team that can use the services of a 36-year-old possession receiver. Knowing what a competitor Ward has been the past 14 years as a Steeler, he may want to prove he can still get the job done.
It just won't be in Pittsburgh.
The man who endeared himself to Steeler fans with those 1,000 career receptions, all those bone-crunching blocks and that infectious smile is history.