PITTSBURGH (AP) - The Steelers will release wide receiver Hines Ward.
A four-time Pro Bowl selection, who holds franchise records for receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, Ward, 35, has spent all of his 14 NFL seasons with Pittsburgh.
"We had a conversation (Wednesday) with Hines Ward and informed him that we plan to release him of his contract prior to the start of the 2012 NFL calendar year," Steelers President Art Rooney II said in a statement on the team's website. "Hines has been an integral part of our success since we drafted him in 1998, and we will forever be grateful for what he has helped us achieve."
A four-time Pro Bowl selection, Ward will finish his Steelers career with 1,000 catches, 12,083 yards and 85 receiving touchdowns. He helped Pittsburgh to three AFC championships, and two Super Bowl titles.
A first-round pick out of Georgia in 1998, Ward was the MVP of Super Bowl in 2006 after leading the Steelers to a 21-10 victory against the Seattle Seahawks. He posted a game-high 123 receiving yards on five receptions with one touchdown.
"He has meant so much to this organization, both on and off the field," Rooney said, "and we appreciate his efforts over the past 14 years."
Last season, Ward's role diminished in the Steelers offense, as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger developed stronger relationships with Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown. Both receivers topped 1,100 yards receiving and combined for 10 touchdowns, while Ward had just 46 catches for 381 yards and two scores.
Ward, though, had six 1,000-yard receiving seasons, and just missed two more, posting 975 in both 2005-06 and 2006-07.
"Hines' accomplishments are numerous," Rooney said, "and he will always be thought of as one of the all-time great Steelers.
"We wish him nothing but the best."