Hines Ward: Steelers off-field drama is 'embarrassing to me'

Hines Ward is one of the greatest Steelers wide receivers of all time. He played from 1998-2011 and retired with 1,000 receptions, 85 touchdowns and two Super Bowl rings. He also held out before the 2005 season, skipping the first two weeks of training camp because he wanted a new deal. The Steelers finally relented, giving him a four-year, $25.8 million extension, and that team went on to win the Super Bowl. But years later, Ward wished he had handled it differently.

"The year that we won the Super Bowl, I held out that year," Ward told NFL Network in April 2017 shortly after Steelers chairman Dan Rooney passed away. "And I remember coming into training camp and [Rooney] was one of the first guys that I saw when I got into Pittsburgh, and coming out of that holdout. I apologized. I told him I never wanted to bring negative attention to our organization. It was a misunderstanding on my behalf, on behalf of my agent, and part of a miscommunication with the Pittsburgh Steelers."

We mention this because on Thursday Ward spoke with CBS Sports HQ's Casey Keirnan about Le'Veon Bell's six-weeks-and-running holdout that's expected to end during the Steelers' Week 7 bye week.

"I understand there's a business aspect of it and running backs, their lifespan is very short in the NFL," Ward began. "But Le'Veon Bell, is by far, one of the best running backs in the game today, so I get it from the business side of it. Me personally, I never wanted to cause any drama or bring any negative attention to the organization that drafted me and gave me an opportunity to play.

"I get the business side of it but at the same time I'm all about winning championships and rings. And that means more to me than anything, so I think it's an unfortunate incident on both sides. I look at the Pittsburgh Steelers -- we're talking more about the drama off the field rather than talk about the play on the field but as a former player that's embarrassing to me because, really, Pittsburgh's culture is just line up and kick people's tail on the football field and that's how it's always been for years.

"So it's a little [uneasy] hearing some of the drama coming out of Pittsburgh and it doesn't sit well with me."

This isn't the first time this season that Ward has called used the words "Steelers" and "embarrassed" in the same sentence. Last month, in the wake of Antonio Brown skipping work following the team's loss to the Chiefs, Ward had this to say.

"I'm a little embarrassed," Ward told CBS Sports Radio's Zach Gelb at the time, "in the sense that that's not the Steelers culture. We're not really big on kind of having off-the-field issues with a lot of different guys. ... Listen, I understand he's a passionate guy and wants to win more than anybody in the world, but in this case I kind of think he's wrong for the outburst. When things aren't going good, a lot of people look at the leaders on your team ... They want to see how you respond to adversity. It's something that I wouldn't have done. I get it, you're frustrated. You want to win. But having outbursts like that doesn't do anybody any justice."

Despite all the early season drama, Brown is coming off his best game of the season -- he had six catches for 101 yards and two touchdowns against the Falcons -- and Bell is set to return ahead of the Steelers' Week 8 game against the Browns.  If Pittsburgh can get by Cincinnati on Sunday (the Steelers have beaten the Bengals six times in a row), they'll improve to 3-2-1 and be in surprisingly good shape for the the final two months of the season.

CBS Sports Writer

Ryan Wilson has been an NFL writer for CBS Sports since June 2011, and he's covered five Super Bowls in that time. Ryan previously worked at AOL's FanHouse from start to finish, and Football Outsiders... Full Bio

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