Ward is supposed to be paid $4 million next season, a figure far too high solely based on the amount Ward contributed last year (46 receptions, 381 yards, 2 touchdowns, and the fact that he would probably be the No. 4 receiver next season).
As made clear by Mike Florio over at Pro Football Talk, the veteran minimum isn't really an option because of the fact that Ward would be required to play special teams, which would be so unintentionally degrading that fans would be horrified and cry en masse.
In order to avoid that, Ward will be forced to pick between whatever he perceives the lesser of two evils to be: Retire or seek employment somewhere else.
Since I'm a lifelong Steelers fan, I absolutely am destroyed over this. Ward has always embodied the major tenants of "Steelerdom" (hard-hitting, phenomenal blocker, "clutch," above-average human being), but always did so with an infectious smile that made you want to kill him after one of his rare dropped passes.
Ward was a Super Bowl MVP, and statistically the greatest receiver in Steelers history. He's an obvious Hall-of-Famer (but probably won't be obvious to the voters, who regularly refuse to vote in wide receivers. I see you, Cris Carter) and a Dancing With the Stars champion.
Every Steelers fan unconditionally adores him, even if "Steelers fan" and "adores" appears to be an oxymoron.
I could go on and on, but I won't bore you with my tears and nostalgia. If this is true, I'll be really upset. It sucks the way football careers end like this; players suddenly disappearing because of salary issues.
Steelers fans, just be glad you will get a chance to say goodbye. Don't screw this up, because Hines is one of the great ones.