Hines Ward Retires, Will "Remain a Steeler for Life"

Andrea HangstFeatured Columnist IVMarch 20, 2012

After 14 seasons, WR Hines Ward is hanging up his cleats as a Pittsburgh Steeler
After 14 seasons, WR Hines Ward is hanging up his cleats as a Pittsburgh SteelerRob Carr/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers' all-time leading wide receiver Hines Ward announced his retirement today at a press conference at the team's facilities.

An emotional Ward repeatedly thanked the fans for their ongoing support during his 14 years with the team, saying that they've given him the "best years of (his) life."

Ward said that, upon his release, he believed his passion for the game would allow him to continue his career elsewhere, but after giving the prospect some thought, he realized that he "didn't want to play in any other uniform," and chose instead to retire a Steeler.

A wide receiver playing out a 14-year career with a single team is practically unheard of in today's NFL, and Ward's loyalty to the Steelers was paid back by the team's continued loyalty to him. Cutting Ward was easily one of the most difficult personnel decisions the team has had to make in recent memory and an upsetting moment for the team's fanbase.

However, the knowledge that Ward's career both begins and ends in Pittsburgh serves as cold comfort to fans worried that the Steelers legend would find a new home and a new team.

Ward repeatedly made it clear that the Steelers' fans and the organization as a whole means more to him than the game itself and that playing for any other team wouldn't carry with it the same passion that it did in Pittsburgh.

Ward has an even 1,000 receptions to his name, for 12,083 receiving yards and 85 touchdowns.