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Hampton to return; Ward's future uncertain with Steelers

INDIANAPOLIS — Casey Hampton's third major knee injury apparently won't stop the Steelers from bringing the veteran nose tackle back next season.

Hines Ward's future with the Steelers is less certain, and the veteran receiver remains in a holding pattern because the team isn't expected to release any more players until early March.

General manager Kevin Colbert said no decision has been made about Ward. The Steelers' all-time leading receiver has two years left on his contract and is willing to restructure his deal so he can return for a 15th season in Pittsburgh.

"I think there's value in having any experienced player because you want someone to show (younger receivers) the way beyond their coaches," Colbert said. "Ultimately, that player has to be able to help you win — not only be a mentor, but be a contributor, as well."

The Steelers apparently think Hampton still can contribute.

Colbert didn't hesitate to say "yes" when asked if Hampton will play for the team next season.

Hampton suffered his third torn ACL last month in Denver.

Colbert said Hampton's history with knee injuries will actually help him as he works his way back.

"He knows what to expect," Colbert said. "He knows how to do this."

> > Colbert said the Steelers hope to re-sign veteran quarterbacks Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich. Batch served as Ben Roethlisberger's backup last season after Leftwich suffered a season-ending arm injury in a preseason game.

"I think they're comfortable being a part of (the team), and I think they're open (to returning)," Colbert said.

He also said he expects Dennis Dixon, an unrestricted free agent, to go elsewhere after the free-agent signing period starts March 13.

"I don't think the league has seen the best of Dennis Dixon only because he's behind a great quarterback, and he's been held back by some injuries," Colbert said.

> > The Steelers offered running back Isaac Redman, defensive tackle Steve McLendon and punter Jeremy Kapinos one-year contracts. They are exclusive-rights free agents and can't entertain offers from other teams.

> > The Steelers have the 24th overall pick in this year's draft, and Colbert said quarterback is the only every-down position the team won't consider with that selection.

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