Ward: Steelers locker room in 'total disarray'
INDIANAPOLIS — Hines Ward didn't want to leave the Steelers as early as he did. He certainly didn't want to leave them like this.
To Ward, the Steelers are in “total disarray” in their locker room, something that wouldn't have occurred previously because their established leaders wouldn't have permitted it.
Ward suggested the recent departure of acknowledged team leaders — he didn't mention them, but they include Ward, James Farrior and Aaron Smith — has badly hurt the Steelers' internal chemistry.
“When you lose so much leadership in the locker room, that is where things present itself like that,” Ward told the NFL Network on Friday.
“Guys start finger-pointing, calling out other guys. That's not the Steeler way. We always had a rule: We are a band of brothers. We've always collectively kept everything in-house. But there was no finger-pointing and calling out each other. That's total disarray, a locker room in disarray.”
In recent days, there has been speculation about linebacker LaMarr Woodley's supposed weight problems, which even Steelers coaches expressed concern about months ago.
Wide receiver Antonio Brown also said there was a rift between players concerned about team goals and those more focused on individual goals.
Safety Ryan Clark mentioned a possible fracture in the locker room, to him an unusual occurrence for a team he said has been known for leaders such as Joey Porter and Alan Faneca.
General manager Kevin Colbert said Thursday there was no such rift despite the team's 8-8 record, saying he and coach Mike Tomlin closely monitor such things.
“Whether you win a Super Bowl or finish 8-8, there's not a 100 percent harmonious locker room,” Colbert said. “Quite honestly, I'm not concerned about our locker room.”
Ward also revealed he would have preferred to play one final season in Pittsburgh, saying he regretted not having a Ray Lewis-like farewell tour.
Ward began the 2011 season as a starter, lost his job midway through the season and by the end was a only a complementary receiver. The Steelers chose not to bring him back for 2012 and he joined NBC as a Sunday night game analyst.
On his Twitter account, Ward refers to himself as a “Steeler for life.”
“That's the whole thing about it,” he said.
“I'm a little disappointed I didn't get the opportunity to run around and congratulate the fans and really just thank them for so many great years. I always wanted that. … I always thought I could play football for another season, if I had been healthy.”
The Steelers felt Ward's skills had visibly eroded, as evidenced when he struggled late in the 2011 season. He made only 20 catches past midseason, nine in the final two games as they made certain he ended his career with 1,000 catches.