No room for sentimentality
There is only one way the Steelers should bring back Hines Ward next season — if they believe he can make them a better team.
There is no room for sentimentality or loyalty in the NFL. There is only room for progress. And judging by how the 2011 season went, my guess is the Steelers believe they will be better served using Ward's roster spot on a younger player.
If Ward is going to be a bit player on offense, as he was last season, he would need to be a key contributor on special teams. That is not likely to happen. At 35, Ward would bring a value to the Steelers in terms of leadership and credibility. If Ward can't help the Steelers make first downs and touchdowns, though, that won't matter.
Could be good investment
Los Angeles Times
Although Hines Ward is not productive enough to merit the annual $4 million on the remaining two years of his deal, he has shown a willingness to renegotiate to stay with the Steelers. Discarding him would be a mistake.
New offensive coordinator Todd Haley needs to turn his attention to cultivating a relationship with Ben Roethlisberger, who was close to former OC Bruce Arians. Also the young receiving trio of Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown still have room to grow. Each would benefit from the tutelage of the more physical Ward, who could have a Charlie Batch-type role of elder statesman. For, say, $1 million per year, he would still be a worthy investment.
Deal should be worked out
This is a loaded question, isn't it? No, the Steelers should not "get rid" of Hines Ward. But it is inevitable that Ward and the Steelers will part ways, if not this offseason, then next.
The Steelers should do all they can to ensure that Ward's eventual departure from Pittsburgh is amicable. And Ward should do his part. If the issue is performance, and at 35 his skills are in decline, then the Steelers should consider his intangible value.
If the issue is money, and it usually is, then Ward, his agent and the Steelers front office should work out a deal to keep him there and let him retire a Steeler. Ward still wants to play, he has value as a fourth receiver and he still has the skill and experience to contribute.
Too valuable to Steelers
The Morning Call
No way the Steelers should dump Hines Ward.
In many ways, Ward epitomizes the toughness of the Steelers as a wide receiver who not only doesn't mind doing dirty work, but embraces it. Whether he's the third or fourth receiver at this stage of his career, Ward is always looking to hammer somebody and spring someone else when he doesn't have the football in his hands.
Ward is not too old that he can't contribute and is too valuable as a player, personality and leader for the Steelers to let go at this point. Hard to imagine a final mix of 53 Steelers without Ward being better in 2012 than it would be with him.