Is Ward finished in the Steel City?

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward watches the Green Bay Packers on field celebration...

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward watches the Green Bay Packers on field celebration after they won NFL Super Bowl XLV, 31-25, in Arlington, Texas, February 6, 2011. (REUTERS/Pierre Ducharme)

Bill Lankhof, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:02 PM ET

It’s Steel Curtains for Hines Ward.

After 14 mostly-superlative seasons, Ward’s career appears to have ended with the receiver standing on the sidelines watching Tim Tebow steal the glory-time he once owned.

If Denver’s 29-23 overtime upset of Pittsburgh showed one thing, it is that Ward is no longer a major part of Steelers coach Mike Tomlin’s offensive plans.

Ward’s stats for the game: Zero catches. Zero yards. Zero impact. When it was over a teammate told CBS that “expectations around the team” are that Ward has heard the fat lady sing. He’s done.

So far there has been no confirmation from Ward, but for someone who once was a go-to guy, to be left on the sidelines for the game’s most important plays has to be soul-wrecking. And Ward was left on the sidelines a lot this year.

There were signs even before being ignored Sunday that he had fallen out of favour.

Through the season, he caught just 46 passes, the lowest since his rookie year, and his per-catch average was the worst of his career. Last year he was supplanted by Mike Wallace as Pittsburgh’s No. 1 receiver. Rookie Antonio Brown made the key catches in playoff games that got them to the third Super Bowl in six years. This year he had slipped down the depth chart behind Heath Miller and Jerricho Cotchery in passing schemes.

Not sure, but perhaps in Tomlin’s mind Ward might still have been ranked ahead of the waterboy. But, that’s about it.

As a future Hall of Famer, this has to hurt. Ward has two years left on his contract but he will be 36 when the Steelers reconvene for training camp and it’s difficult to see him hanging around as an afterthought. He’s too intense, too proud.

From the Steelers’ viewpoint, they have a young, talented receiving corps, and with a need to get younger and better in other areas, they may not have room — even for a guy who is one of eight receivers ever to catch 1,000 career passes, not even for a legend.

DEAD END KIDS?

Quarterback Matt Ryan is still looking for his first playoff win in three tries, and the Falcons have lost the last two playoff games by a combined score of 72-23. This is what happens when you have a head coach who is allergic to punters and an offensive line which shows all the movement on fourth and inches of trench warfare.

“I don’t think we took a step back (this season),” said owner Arthur Blank after the offence failed to register a point.

So, its unanimous. They’ve got an owner, to go along with a head coach, who “don’t think”.

TRICK PLAY

Pittsburgh linebacker James Farrior knows the scoreboard says the Steelers lost. But, he still can’t figure out how Tim Tebow did that.

One consolation? He now belongs to a big club.

A lot of NFL players not wearing Denver orange and blue are going home this season feeling like they’ve been flim-flammed.

The Steelers gave up only two plays over 40 yards all season. They gave up four Sunday to Tebow, a guy they didn’t believe could throw. “We felt we had a good grasp of what they would try to do to us,” Farrior told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “They made more plays than we thought they were capable of making. We really hadn’t seen that out of him on tape.”

As opposed to now, when he can look forward to seeing tape replays of Tebow hitting Demaryius Thomas with the winning touchdown catch for about the next lifetime!

Sometimes life is just no darn fair.

JAG-GED EDGES

The Jacksonville Jaguars lost again Sunday, and they didn’t even play.

Denver’s win means Broncos’ offensive coordinator Mike McCoy had to cancel his scheduled interview in Jacksonville for the team’s head coaching position.

Actually, the Broncos may have saved McCoy from himself. The Jags are to the NFL what the Titanic is to sailing.

Meanwhile, ESPN reports that the team’s senior vice president of football operations and general counsel, Paul Vance, has been fired. He’s being held responsible for contract language that has resulted in seven fired Jacksonville coaches claiming they are owed their salaries for the 2012 season.

The coaches have not yet filed a formal grievance but it’s probably just a matter of time. Nobody does it better when it comes to general mayhem, strife and tribulation than the Jaguars. The upside? At least they lead the league in something.

QUICK HITS

The Chargers have decided not to exercise an option on their stadium lease that would’ve allowed them to move to another city. L.A. doesn’t become an option until a stadium is completed ... Packers’ offensive coordinator Joe Philbin has had a difficult week. He was passed over for the Chiefs head coach position and now is dealing with the disappearance of his son. Michael, 21, was visiting friends in Oshkosh. He spent six months in jail in 2009 for the sexual assault of two girls ... Atlanta defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder is leaving for the same position at Auburn ... Romeo Crennel has agreed to a three-year deal as head coach of the Chiefs.


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