Former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward knows exactly what safety Troy Polamalu is going through right now.
But Ward was never given the time the Steelers are giving Polamalu to come to terms that his career with the team is over.
Ward was the team’s all-time leading receiver, Super Bowl MVP, four-time Pro Bowler and wanted to play one more season. But he was called in for a meeting with Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert and told he was finished with the Steelers.
“I was a little disappointed at first,’’ Ward said during an interview with Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “There was nothing to say, they said I couldn’t play anymore — because I was out there 50 percent on a messed-up ankle because I ripped every ligament in my ankle.”
“I asked for a paycut, whatever the minimum was,” he said. “I just wanted to stay on the team and be a leader to Antonio [Brown], Mike [Wallace] and Emmanuel [Sanders] and just be the fourth guy. But they didn’t have anything for me. It was disappointing.’’
Ward forced the Steelers to cut him instead of retiring. But after 18 days, he held a retirement ceremony at the Steelers facility.
“I just didn’t think I needed to go to another organization to try to prove my worth,” he said. “I got everything I wanted out of football. I went to three Super Bowls, we won two, I was Super Bowl MVP, I had four Pro Bowls and played 14 years.
“There were some hard feelings at first, but I look back and it was a blessing. What was I chasing? Do I go to another team and go below .500 — that wasn’t how I wanted to end my career.”
Ward said he spoke to Polamalu, who was preparing for his 13th NFL season last week.
“For Troy, he’s 33, 34 [on April 19], he’s dealt with injuries and stuff, but who am I to tell a man to retire?” Ward said. “I just spoke with Troy last week. He was training and preparing to play football. I don’t know about the retirement aspect. It’s an unfortunate situation, but as you get older, you have to look at the business aspect of it.”
Ward thinks Polamalu can still be a valuable asset to the Steelers in 2015.
“That’s what I think Troy can bring, be a coach to the younger guys, play a role,’’ Ward said. “He’s 33, 34; I’ve seen guys play 35, 36, but with Troy and the injuries, I understand where the Steelers are coming from. I just think there has to be some way.”
“With Troy’s past and his ability, he still can provide something for somebody out there. I would love to see it be with the Steelers,” Ward added. “I’d be crushed to see ‘43’ in something other than black and gold. But if he decides to keep playing and they decide to go somewhere else, he’s always going to be a Steeler for life, in my opinion.”