Hines Ward wants to play in 2012

Wide receiver Hines Ward said he is willing to take a pay cut if that means he can remain with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"I'd probably have to restructure my contract," Ward told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "That's fine with me. I recognize that. I'm telling you I want to be here, I'm telling you I'm willing to do that. And I understand the ramifications -- we have the cap number and stuff, but I want to be here."

Ward's preference is to play for the Steelers next season. But, if the Steelers don't want him back, he is prepared to play elsewhere.

"I do want to play. I still think I can play," Ward, who will turn 36 in March, told the newspaper. "I'm not even thinking like that -- what if. If that scenario happens, I'll be devastated, but I do want to play football."

Ward already had shot down rumors that he was hanging it up following a season in which he had just 46 catches, though he did collect the 1,000th reception of his career in the regular season finale.

He's become a mentor as he's aged, and he may have been too good for his own good. The maturation of Mike Wallace and the ascension of second-year receiver Antonio Brown -- who set a team record for all-purpose yards -- into one of the league's top young wideouts dropped Ward to fourth or fifth on the depth chart.

"We all know the direction in which we're going with the receiving corps," Emmanuel Sanders said. "But, like I said, Hines is still a great addition, just the knowledge he brings to the room. You can't pay for that. You can't coach that. He just brings that well-being of how to be a pro into the room."

Jamison Hensley covers the AFC North for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.