The Steelers announced that long-time wide receiver Hines Ward will be released.

“We had a conversation today 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 told 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. He has meant so much to this organization, both on and off the field, and we appreciate his efforts over the past 14 years. Hines’ accomplishments are numerous, and he will always be thought of as one of the all-time great Steelers. We wish him nothing but the best.”

Ward turns 36 next month and is coming off a season where he started nine of 15 games, catching 46 passes for 381 yards and two touchdowns. All of those numbers were Ward’s lowest totals since his rookie season as Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown emerged as the team’s top receivers, with Emmanuel Sanders supplanting Ward as the No. 3. The Steelers were able to get Ward his 1,000th reception in the regular season, and the four-time Pro Bowl has gained 12,083 yards and 85 touchdowns during his 217-game NFL career, with each totals representing the most in Steelers’ history.

Ward was due $4 million in base salary with a $4.61 million cap number. Releasing Ward will clear $3.39 million from the Steelers’ 2012 salary cap.

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