Fans stand behind No. 86
By Joe Bendel
Friday, July 29, 2005
They lined up by the hundreds outside of the Sprint PCS Store at the Waterfront in Homestead, waiting eagerly to meet Steelers wideout Hines Ward. Some fans carried Hines bobbleheads, others sported his Pro Bowl jersey and one nearly fainted in his presence.
Ward spent two hours signing autographs, which was ironic considering he has yet to sign contract extension with the Steelers. The four-time Pro Bowler is seeking a deal that would make him one of the highest paid receivers in football.
The affable Ward has threatened to boycott training camp if he doesn't get the deal he desires. The Steelers have offered to make him the richest player in franchise history.
Fans at yesterday's event had varying opinions on No. 86 and his dealings with black and gold brass.
"I thought they were definitely going to give (his desired money) to him when they got rid of Plaxico Burress," said Dani Waitt of Plum. "I think he should hold out. He deserves it. There's no other receiver really like him in the league."
"I'd be upset if the Steelers didn't sign him because I think he can help the team - he's a most valuable player, he makes the Pro Bowl, all of those things," said Brad Goedeker, a freshman at Monaca High School.
Some believe he should play out the final year of his contract, then go through the negotiation process.
"I'd be upset if he wasn't out there, because when you sign a contract, you have to honor it," said Sam Peppnella, a Tampa, Fla., resident who attended the session with his wife (a Pittsburgh native) and two children. "You play it out, then you go into negotiations as a free agent. But I think he absolutely should be on the field this year."
Jason Gigliotti of Carrick believes both sides can be happy at the end of all of this.
"I think they can come to a happy medium," said Gigliotti. "Hines can't get Marvin Harrison money, $12 million (bonus), but there has to be something both sides can work out. The Steelers love him, the city loves him and this is the best place for him."
"He's cute, he has that great smile, so I want to keep him here," said Pitt student Alana Daharu