Ward spent his entire career with the Steelers, who decided last month to give the former Super Bowl MVP his release.
"Today, I'm officially retiring as a Pittsburgh Steeler," an emotional Ward said at a Tuesday press conference. "As much as I'll miss football, my teammates, coaches and everything about the game, I don't want to play in any other uniform. I will remain a Steeler for life."
The Steelers selected Ward in the third round of the 1998 draft out of Georgia. He helped the franchise to a pair of Super Bowl titles, earning MVP honors in Super Bowl XL after the 2005 season in Pittsburgh's 21-10 win over Seattle.
Ward, who turned 36 years old on March 8, is Pittsburgh's all-time leader with 1,000 receptions, 12,083 receiving yards and 85 receiving touchdowns. He is the eighth player in NFL history to record 1,000 career receptions and joins Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice as the only players to reach 1,000 receptions and win multiple Super Bowls.
"All in all, I can say I'm a Steeler for life," Ward stated Tuesday. "That's all I really wanted. It's bittersweet, but it was the right thing to do. ... I couldn't fathom myself playing in another uniform. The passion just wouldn't be the same."
Ward said there was interest from other teams and he even mentioned some of the reports that had him going elsewhere.
"Free agency began a week ago, and some people had me going to the Dolphins. Some had me out in Arizona [with former Steelers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt], and some had me signing a three-year deal with the Baltimore Ravens and that will never happen," he quipped.
Ward continually reiterated that it was his desire to retire as a Steeler, even though he believed there was some football left in him.
"I feel like I have a few good years left in me," Ward remarked. "I am a competitor and I would love nothing more than to get back to another Super Bowl."
Ward played in three Super Bowls with the Steelers, compiling 14 catches for 244 yards with two touchdowns in those games. He was a four-time Pro Bowl pick and was also a member of the Steelers' 75th season all-time team.
"I have accomplished all that I have set out to do and more," Ward continued. "I really have nothing left to prove."
Ward's role was reduced over the past couple of seasons. After a 95-catch year in 2009, he had only 59 receptions in 2010 and just 46 this past season. He only started nine of the 15 games he played in 2011.