The Pittsburgh Steelers plan to release former Super Bowl most valuable player Hines Ward before the start of the 2012 National Football League (NFL) season, the team said on Wednesday.

Ward, who was drafted in the third round by Pittsburgh in 1998, has spent 14 years with the Steelers and is the team's all-time leader in receptions (1,000), receiving yards (12,083), receiving touchdowns (85) and 100-yard receiving games (29).

"We had a conversation today with Hines Ward and informed him that we plan to release him of his contract prior to the start of the 2012 NFL calendar year," Steelers president Art Rooney II told Steelers.com.

"Hines has been an integral part of our success since we drafted him in 1998 and we will forever be grateful for what he has helped us achieve."

A four-time Pro Bowler, the Korean-born receiver is the eighth NFL player to reach 1,000 career receptions and joins Hall of Famer Jerry Rice as the only two players to post 1,000 career catches and win multiple Super Bowls.

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Frank Pingue)