Last year there was talk late in the season that Steelers receiver Hines Ward might be thinking of calling it quits. Ward decided to come back for 2011, but this year he’s been largely phased out of the Pittsburgh passing game. So does that mean he’s thinking that Saturday could be his final game at Heinz Field?
“I have two years left on my contract,” Ward said, via Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I’m not even thinking that this is my last one.”
But whether Ward is thinking about it or not, the Steelers might make that decision and cut Ward during the offseason. After all, Ward didn’t have a single pass thrown his way on Monday night, and over the last seven games he has a total of 11 catches for 67 yards. There aren’t too many jobs available for 36-year-old fifth receivers who don’t contribute on special teams, and that’s what Ward is going to be this offseason.
Ward knows that the decision about whether to keep playing for the Steelers won’t just be up to him.
“If the organization decides to, I have no control over that. But, for me, I’m not even thinking this is my last game ever [at Heinz Field],” Ward said. “I feel fine. I feel like I can play another year or two if I want to.”
The organization has done it before: Franco Harris ran for 11,950 yards with the Steelers before finishing his career in Seattle, where he gained 170 more yards in one final season. Could Ward follow the same path, and maybe sign with a team like the Cardinals, where he’d be reunited with Ken Whisenhunt?
“I don’t know,” Ward said. “That hasn’t even crossed my mind. If they cut me, it’s on them. I don’t want to be cut, I don’t want to play for another team, but I haven’t thought of the possibility of that even happening. It’s happened to lot of guys. Franco did it when he was here. I don’t want to play for anybody else. We’ll deal with that when the time comes. Right now, it’s not even in my mind to think what happens — am I going to be here, is this my last game? I don’t think like that, I’ve never thought like that.”
Ward may have no choice but to start thinking about that after the season.