The smile that made Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver, Hines Ward (in)famous is surely subdued today. Michael David Smith of profootballtalk.com writes that the team has announced that they will release the 15-year veteran. This move really comes as no surprise, given the Steelers' salary cap quandary and the recent emergence of wide receivers Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders. Ward was due $4 million in salary for 2012, and the move will save the team $2.88 million in cap space. It's unclear where he will land, if anywhere, at this point.
Ward has been a been a pain in the collective rears for Bengals fans in his 14-year Steeler career. He made numerous plays against the Bengals over the years and made himself into a very unlikeable figure in Bengaldom. Whether it was his mockery of Chad Johnson's riverdance or the questionable block that broke Keith Rivers' jaw, Ward will live on as one of the most hated Steelers in the rivalry.With this hatred should come a level of respect for Ward. In his time as a Steeler, he racked up 1,000 career receptions (good for 8th all-time in the NFL, tops in Steelers history), four Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl MVP in his borderline Hall of Fame career--not too shabby got a guy that played quarterback in college. He was also a tenacious blocker and willing to make a number of tough catches across the middle. Those associated with the organization call Ward the "consummate Steeler" and though it's obvious that he's worn out his usefulness, there's also a sadness about his release amongst the Steeler faithful.
I'd be lying if I told you that I didn't have a level of personal satisfaction in writing this article about Ward's departure. I won't fully miss him on those two Sundays in the fall where he'd often have his way against our beloved Bengals. I do have to admit that there is a sense of sadness on my end though, for a variety of reasons. I suppose that it mostly comes from the fact that the Bengals never seemed to retaliate on and/or equal Ward's toughness and attitude on the field, and now they likely won't ever have the chance to.
It also comes as an end of an era, as I personally remember rooting very hard against Ward and the rest of his teammates when "Steeler Week" was in full effect. He was one of of the Steeler mainstays that made Bengals fans get irate when they thought of "Terrible Towels" and cockiness surrounding the "Black and Yellow". Though his pupils are bigger offensive threats presently, they don't bring the emotion to the rivalry that Ward did.
So, we at Cincy Jungle say congratulations to Hines Ward on a great career as a Steeler--and good riddance.