Ward should end his career now

The Pittsburgh Steelers cut the cord last Wednesday with the smile that lit up Heinz Field for 14 seasons. Wide receiver Hines Ward will not be wearing black and gold next season.

Steelers president Art Rooney II wrote in a statement that the Steelers plan to release Ward from his contract. There were reportedly no talks between Ward and Rooney about Ward taking a pay cut to stay in Pittsburgh. Ward was due to earn $4 million next season.

Ward won two Super Bowls with the Steelers, was the Super Bowl MVP in 2006, and was selected to four Pro Bowls. After setting all-time team records in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns, Ward will leave Pittsburgh as the Steelers’ greatest wide receiver.

But the time has come for Ward to hang up his cleats. Rooney made the right call. Ward’s production is down, with most of his numbers at their lowest since his rookie season. To pay $4 million for that would be preposterous. With Rooney’s plan to adopt a more blue-collar, running-style offense, it is not surprising that the Steelers opened up salary cap space by releasing Ward.

In a statement, Ward said he was looking forward to playing in the NFL again this upcoming season. But this should be the end of the road for Ward; it is time to call it quits. He needs to retire as a Steeler instead of pulling a Brett Favre and playing outside the city that made him an icon.

Playing a final season of low-production football for another team might invoke a dismissive attitude from analysts and fans. After a season where Ward put up just 46 receptions for 381 yards and a measly two touchdowns, he wants to come back and play another season. Does he want to go out with even more of a whimper than he already would be?

He could go to the Arizona Cardinals or the Jacksonville Jaguars, which are both looking to pick up a wide receiver. But I don’t think he can produce as an NFL wide receiver anymore.

“This isn’t how I wanted this chapter of my career to end,” Ward said. He needs to realize that he can’t end it any better than this.