"We had a conversation today with Hines Ward and informed him that we plan to release him of his contract prior to the start of the 2012 NFL calendar year," Steelers President Art Rooney II told the team's website, Steelers.com. "Hines has been an integral part of our success since we drafted him in 1998 and we will forever be grateful for what he has helped us achieve. He has meant so much to this organization, both on and off the field, and we appreciate his efforts over the past 14 years. Hines' accomplishments are numerous, and he will always be thought of as one of the all-time great Steelers. We wish him nothing but the best."
Ward was originally drafted by the Steelers in the third round of the 1998 NFL Draft out of Georgia. He spent 14 years in Pittsburgh and became the team's all-time leader in receptions (1,000), receiving yards (12,083), receiving touchdowns (85) and 100-yard receiving games (29). Ward is the eighth player in NFL history to reach 1,000 career receptions and joined only Hall of Famer Jerry Rice as the only two players in league history to post 1,000 career catches and win multiple Super Bowls.
Ward was the MVP of Super Bowl XL after leading the Steelers to a 21-10 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. He posted a game-high 123 receiving yards on five receptions with one touchdown.
The Steelers' 2008 Walter Payton Man of the Year, Ward was named to four Pro Bowls (2002-05) and was a member of the team's 75th Season All-Time Team.