At his retirement news conference Tuesday, Ward said he has urged Mike Wallace to do what he can to remain with the Steelers. "I told Mike you may get a chance to go other places but there's not another place like Pittsburgh," Ward said.
Wallace is a restricted free agent this year who could go elsewhere if he signs an offer sheet with another team and the Steelers decline to match it. If Wallace remains with the team this season, he would be an unrestricted free agent next year unless the Steelers decide to use the franchise tag on him.
Ward, however, is the exception to the Steelers' rule when it comes to wide receivers and free agency. He was the only wide receiver that the Steelers have re-signed to a long-term contract in the free-agency era. As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette pointed out, the wide receivers who left Pittsburgh in free agency have been Yancey Thigpen, Plaxico Burress, Antwaan Randle El, Nate Washington, Bobby Shaw and Charles Johnson.
Wallace and Ward followed a similar path to Pittsburgh. They were both selected by the Steelers in the third round from SEC schools. Wallace was the 84th player selected, and Ward was the 92nd. In Ward's first three seasons (in a run-heavy offense), he caught 124 passes for 1,556 yards and 11 touchdowns. In Wallace's three seasons (in a pass-oriented attack), he has produced 171 receptions for 3,206 yards and 24 touchdowns.