Hines Ward: Retirement Is Not in the Game Plan

Shawn McGrathContributor IIDecember 23, 2011

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 23:  Wide receiver Hines Ward #86 of the Pittsburgh Steelers  during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on October 23, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona. The Steelers defeated the Cardinals 32-20.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Hines Ward has no plans to retire after the 2011-12 season. 

"I feel fine. I feel like I can play another year or two if I want to," Ward stated.

In Ed Bouchette's article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Friday, Ward described that if he is not a Steeler in 2012-13, the blame is not on him—it's on the Steelers.

"If they cut me, it's on them."

No Hines, if the Pittsburgh Steelers decide to cut you in the offseason, it's on you. 

"I'm getting open."

Really? It sure does not look like it to me.

Ward is a Pittsburgh legend and future Hall of Famer. He is arguably the best wide receiver to ever wear a Steelers uniform. He's the MVP of Super Bowl XL. Ward has earned his paycheck year in and year out with a gritty attitude. 

Ward's all-out playing style defines what the Pittsburgh Steelers are all about.

But Ward does not have the same role in the game plan that he used to.

Whether Ward's play is actually diminishing, or it just looks that way due to the speed and quickness of rising stars Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace, it is clear that Ward is on his way out.

Couple that with the fact that the Steelers signed 29-year-old Jerricho Cotchery this offseason, Ward is even less important. 

Cotchery would essentially take Ward's place. He is a solid possession receiver that can make the down-field plays.

It is also hard to argue that the team needs Ward for his blocking ability. Ward is hardly out there for most of the running plays, so the notion that the running game would go down the toilet if Ward was cut is not valid. 

You either leave the game a hero, or you stay around long enough to be removed without your consent. Ward needs to pass the torch on to the next batch of receivers, and ride out into the sunset while he is still on top.