During his 14 seasons, the Steelers made three trips to the Super Bowl, winning two of them, with Mr. Ward as MVP in the 21-10 victory over Seattle in 2006. The third-round draft pick out of Georgia set a Steelers record with 94 receptions in the 2001 season and then went on to break it three more times. He made his 1,000th reception on New Year's Day, becoming only the eighth player in the NFL to do so. He went to the Pro Bowl four times, more than any other Steelers receiver.
And was he fun to watch. That signature smile beaming out from under his helmet told anyone watching that he just loved playing football, and his enthusiasm was contagious. Fans applauded Mr. Ward's achievements, and they respected him for his work ethic and activities off the field.
When Mr. Ward was named MVP in Super Bowl XL, he became an unlikely hero in his native South Korea, a country where individuals of mixed race suffer discrimination. After this son of a South Korean woman and an African-American man made his first trip to the nation as an adult, Mr. Ward established a foundation to help biracial children. His winning ways won him a different kind of accolade last year, when he captured the mirror-ball trophy on ABC-TV's popular "Dancing with the Stars."
It is inevitable in any athlete's career that some day, a player who is younger or stronger or more suited to a team's needs will replace yesterday's star. Mr. Ward says he is not ready to stop playing in the NFL, and his accomplishments here will not be diminished if he finishes his career elsewhere.
Even though it may be difficult for fans to say goodbye to him as a Steeler, they know that sentimentality does not win football games. Steelers fans are loyal, but they also are demanding and they expect their team to win.
The Rooney family is in the business of football, and the Steelers organization is the best judge of what it needs to build a winning team. All we can say to Hines Ward is thanks for the memories, and say it with a smile.