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Ward remains in holding pattern

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INDIANAPOLIS –-
Kevin Colbert made his obligatory media rounds Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine.
The Steelers general manager took questions from reporters while at a podium. He did an extensive interview with Sirius Radio outside of the media room. Colbert then met with a small group of Pittsburgh reporters, again fielding all manner of questions.
Colbert was asked about Hines Ward multiple times and in multiple ways. The one thing he did not do was tip his hand in regard to the future of the Steelers’ all-time leading receiver.
“Once we get the salary cap figure we’ll know how much work we have to do,” Colbert said from the podium, the first time he was asked about Ward’s future. “We’ve done some work in terms of restructurings. We’ve done a few terminations. There will be more of both to come. As for right now, Hines Ward is still a Pittsburgh Steelers and a great part of our history because he’s been such a great contributor.”
Trying to read in between the lines or trying to pry something out of Colbert — neither comes particularly easy for me — I asked that if his initial answer meant the Steelers would bring back Ward if a deal could be reached that works for both sides.
“We don’t know what we’re dealing with from a cap standpoint so we have to look at multiple scenarios as to what we can and can’t do and what we’re going to have to do because we don’t know,” Colbert said. “There still can be more restructurings and there still can be more terminations. That’s where we have to leave it.”
That basically leaves Ward in a holding pattern since Colbert doesn’t anticipate the Steelers making any more cuts before March 13, the start of the NFL’s new year.
Ward has two years left on his contract at $4 million per season, but he is willing to restructure his contract to accommodate his return to the Steelers.
Colbert did acknowledge that Ward’s experience is a plus, especially since the Steelers are making a transition with a new offensive coordinator. But, Colbert said, “Ultimately that player has to be able to help you win. Not only be a mentor but be a contributor as well.”
OK, so Ward has to serve as more than a de facto player coach. Does the reality that he is not a special teams player at this stage of his career work against him? It is logical to assume, as many fans have, that the Steelers want their No. 4 and No. 5 receivers to also have the capability of playing special teams.
“If he can (play special teams) great,” Colbert said, “but that won’t be a deal-breaker on whether a guy’s on the team or not. I think it’s more of a bonus.”
And so it goes with the Steelers and Ward.
The team reveals very little in terms of Ward, probably because it still hasn’t made the toughest decision facing the organization during an offseason marked by change. For now, it is probably just best to reference what Colbert said Thursday when initially asked about Ward.
“Hines Ward is still on our roster,” Colbert said.
Yep, that is the one thing we know for sure.

– Scott Brown

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