Source: Deal worth $22 million

Updated: April 26, 2009, 8:38 PM ET
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

The Pittsburgh Steelers wanted to make sure Hines Ward would complete what he had started -- one of the great receiving careers in Steelers history.

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Steelers WR Hines Ward was mic'd up during the AFC Championship Game victory over the Ravens.

Ward agreed and signed a four-year contract extension that will allow him to stay a Steeler the rest of his career. A source said the deal was worth $22 million over the term of the contract. Ward was scheduled to be a free agent after the season. He is now signed through 2013.

The deal also frees up valuable cap room for the team. Ward will make less this season than the $5.8 million he would have made in the final season of the $27.5 million, five-year contract he signed in 2005, but much of the money will be made up in a signing bonus.

"I think everybody in the organization wanted to see Hines conclude his career here, just like Jerome [Bettis] did," director of football operations Kevin Colbert said. "He's been such a big part of our success. You want a player like that to finish in a Steelers uniform. He was committed to that and we were committed to that, and thankfully it worked out."

The 33-year-old Ward has 800 career catches for 9,780 yards and 72 touchdowns.

"You love Hines," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "He embodies what's important to us in terms of how he approaches the game. He's a football player first and a wide receiver second. He's got a passion for the game, a desire to win and compete. He's Hines."

Ward was the Super Bowl MVP when the Steelers beat Seattle 21-10 for the NFL title in February 2006. Bettis, the fifth-leading rusher in NFL history who played all but the first three seasons of his 13-season career with Pittsburgh, retired after that game.

Last season, Ward had his best year statistically since 2003, making 81 catches for 1,043 yards and seven touchdowns during the regular season. Pittsburgh went on to beat Arizona 27-23 in the Super Bowl.

Senior writer John Clayton covers the NFL for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer