Ward has had six seasons of 1,000 or more receiving yards, and would most likely have had two more seasons on that list if not for injuries in 2005 and 2006.
He is listed as 8th overall with 1,000 career catches and 18th overall with 12,083 receiving yards. Of receivers with over 10,000 receiving yards, Marvin Harrison is the only other receiver to have played for the same team throughout his career.
At this point in his career, Ward no longer has the athleticism and burst to get open and make plays in the NFL. The word around the NFL is that the Steelers had to actively give Ward opportunities to reach the 1,000 receptions milestone this past season.
An astounding 16 of Ward's 46 receptions this past season were behind the line of scrimmage—part of the effort to boost Ward's reception total. His receiving totals in 2011 were almost half of any other season in his career, in yardage, receptions and touchdowns.
Pittsburgh management has stated that Ward will not be back with the team, and that it isn't a matter of money—in fact they would not re-sign him if he volunteered to play for free.
Ward has both the numbers and the reputation to make the Hall of Fame, a legitimate possibility after he retires. Few receivers have more yards and receptions in their career, and Ward has earned a reputation as a talented, physical receiver.
Unlike other receivers who long overstayed their welcome in the NFL, Ward has the chance to go out as a the franchise leader in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns with a career left unmarred from seasons of playing on reputation alone.
After over a decade of being a top receiver year in and year out, Ward should call it quits.