But NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora told "NFL Total Access" Friday that Ward won’t be back next season, according to his sources.
As the Steelers work to restructure contracts and manuever below the salary cap, the circumstances are dictating the twilight of Ward’s 14-year career. On the books, he has one year and $4 million left on his current contract. On the field, Ward also took a backseat to youngsters Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown, posting his lowest receiving totals since his rookie season in 1998.
This is no great surprise. Throughout the 2011 season, Ward was dogged by questions about whether that year would be his last with the Steelers. Pittsburgh already has two young stars in Wallace and Brown, and a good third option in Emmanuel Sanders.
Ward caught 46 passes for 381 yards in 2011. That included five catches against Cleveland in the final game of the regular season, which gave Ward 1,000 catches for his career.
Ward, 35, has been with the Steelers since his rookie season in 1998.
For more on the Steelers, check out Behind The Steel Curtain.