By Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
March 4, 2012
It's just business. It isn't personal. It's business.
Keep telling yourself that.
It will help you deal with the Steelers terminating team legends Hines Ward, Aaron Smith and James Farrior last week.
There probably isn't an uglier phrase in sports than, "The team has terminated the contract of ... " One day, a player is a valuable member of an organization, maybe even among its all-time greats. The next day, he is gone. Terminated. It's an awful word.
Legend has a much nicer ring to it even if the word never should be used lightly. With Ward, Smith and Farrior, it applies. They might not join the 18 Steelers players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame -- Ward is the only one with a realistic chance -- but they will be remembered forever as football legends in this town.
It's just business ...
From a football standpoint, it's hard to argue with the release of Ward, Smith and Farrior. Ward was barely an afterthought in the Steelers' offense during the second half of last season. Smith had major injuries in each of the past three seasons and four of the past five. Farrior shared inside linebacker duties last season with inseparable pal Larry Foote, who must be having a brutal time sorting through his mixed feelings about the team deciding to keep him instead of Farrior.
Termination day comes for even the greatest of the great legends.
It's the harsh reality of sports.
"We're all on deck," Farrior said late last season.
The Steelers needed the salary-cap space, presumably to sign, among others, wide receiver Mike Wallace. They need to get younger and had to clear roster spots to do it. The moves to release Ward, Smith and Farrior -- tough as they were -- had to be made.
It's not personal ...
The Steelers' locker room will have a much different feel next season.
Ward, Smith and Farrior held prominent spots, as did popular Chris Hoke, who retired in January.
Ward was respected, not just for his catches and touchdowns but for his toughness, which rivaled any player's in the NFL.
Smith, like Hall of Famer Jack Ham from the Super Steelers of the 1970s, never made a mistake and never was out of position, according to teammates. Those same teammates drew much strength from him and the way he handled his young son Elijah's diagnosis of leukemia in 2008.
As for Farrior?
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