Ward agrees to extension

PITTSBURGH – Perhaps Hines Ward saw something in the Steelers' offense this preseason to make him take their offer.

Perhaps he wants those 33 catches to become the team's all-time leading receiving.

Perhaps he was just sick of negotiating.

Whatever the reason, Ward and the Steelers agreed to a four-year contract extension Sunday night.

The deal would pay Ward $25.83 million through the 2009 season, with the potential for an additional $2.5 million in incentives. The total of the bonuses Ward will receive is $10 million.

Is he relieved?

"Yes. Yes. I don't wish this on anybody," he said. "It was very hard to go out there on the field with peace of mind, knowing that you were so close. But I can go into the season focused now. Now that the deal got done, we went out and had a great day of practice. We'll take tomorrow off and come back Wednesday with a game plan and get ready to play Tennessee for the home opener.

"My mind's clear now. I can just go out and play like I've been playing, give 110 percent on the field and go out there and help my teammates."

Ward worried about his teammates during the holdout, and he also worried about his popularity among fans. But many fans and reporters sided with him and called for the Steelers to pay him whatever he wanted.

"That meant a great deal to me," Ward said. "I was a little worried about people questioning my character and being put in the category of a T.O. [Terrell Owens] and stuff like that. I was a little worried about that. But everywhere I went, even at the airport, I went to pick up my wife and son yesterday and I went to a steak place and the lady said, ‘I can't give you a million dollars, but I can give you a steak sandwich for free.' I got a kick out of that."

"The overwhelming support of everybody in the Pittsburgh area -- that's why I play this game. I think the fans appreciate the way I play the game and now that the contract is done, I don't expect anything less. I'm going to continue being the same player I am and helping the other guys and this team get back to the Super Bowl."

The two sides spent much of the weekend hammering out the deal, which was agreed upon late Sunday night.

"Sometimes priorities take a little longer than others to be fulfilled," said team president Art Rooney II.

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