Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward said he is "discouraged" by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's off-the-field conduct and called some recent incidents "unfortunate" for the Steelers organization.
"I'm not really disappointed in anything," Ward said this afternoon. "I'm discouraged a little bit because the Pittsburgh Steelers come with a high level. Expectations are high. It's unfortunate that our organization has to be in the news like this."
Ward's comments came during a brief media interview session following a question and answer period with 40 student/athletes as part of a Gatorade promotion at North Hills High School.
Ward also indicated that, if the Steelers win the Super Bowl, he would retire after the season. During his 40-minute Q&A session with North Hills football players, the 13-year veteran said his career would be complete with another ring.
"If I win three Super Bowls, I'm retiring," Ward said. "I'm telling you that right now."
Ward said, if he had his way, troubled wide receiver Santonio Holmes would still be on the Steelers, but he supports any actions taken by the Rooney family and/or the NFL.
"It's an unfortunate incident and I would have loved for him to stay, but it's not my team," Ward said. "Who am I to question Mr. Rooney and the Pittsburgh Steelers? They have been doing this thing for a lot of years. They felt it was best for Santonio and best for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Whatever choices they make, they have our support."
Ward, the team's all-time leading receiver, is confident his teammates can fill the void created when Holmes was traded to the New York Jets for a fifth-round draft pick.
"It's unfortunate that Santonio is no longer with us," Ward said. "(But) Mike Wallace had a tremendous rookie year and now he's going to get more opportunities to become that guy. ...Yes, we're young. But, at the same time, that's my job as a leader. I've been in this game a long time and I've seen a lot of players come and go. I'm up for the challenge."
Ward, speaking publicly about Roethlisberger for the first time since Georgia officials decided not to pursue any charges in the alleged sexual assault last month of a 20-year-old college student, said the Steelers' expectations remain the same.
"One thing about us is that we're a close-knit family," he said. "We are going to rally behind each other and support each other. Whatever decision that Mr. Rooney or the league makes, we are going to abide by it and move on. It's not going to change the way we approach things. It's not going to change the expectation level. Our goal is still to win the Super Bowl."