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Steelers set to cut ties with Ward

Hines Ward's constant, ear-to-ear smile tucked behind a black face mask has been a lasting image for Pittsburgh Steelers fans the past 14 seasons.

They won't see it again.

At least, not in a black-and-gold uniform.

The franchise's all-time leader in just about every meaningful receiving category will be released sometime in the next two weeks, said president Art Rooney II on the team's website Wednesday.

A four-time Pro Bowl selection and MVP of the 2006 Super Bowl, Ward will finish his Steelers career with 1,000 catches, 12,083 yards and 85 receiving touchdowns. He helped Pittsburgh to three AFC championships and a pair of Super Bowl wins. While saying "this isn't how I wanted this chapter of my career to end," Ward vowed to return for a 15th season next fall.

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Polian joins ESPN roster of analysts

Long-time NFL team executive Bill Polian will join ESPN as an NFL analyst. He is scheduled to make his debut March 12 and appear throughout the year on NFL Live, NFL 32 and SportsCenter. He also will regularly contribute to ESPN.com, ESPN The Magazine, ESPN Radio and other platforms.

Polian's ESPN role will focus on the NFL draft, free agency and many business-related aspects of pro football including play transactions, salary cap issues and league rules, the network's announcement stated.

Polian was fired as vice chairman of the Indianapolis Colts in January. He was director of pro personnel, then general manager of the Buffalo Bills from 1984 to 1992 and has since held executive positions with the NFL office, the Carolina Panthers and the Colts.

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Ex-UB QB Willy signs with CFL team

Drew Willy, the leading passer in University at Buffalo history, signed with the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League. Willy finished the 2011 NFL season on the San Diego Chargers' practice squad. He was active for one NFL game with the Indianapolis Colts in 2009 and spent the 2010 season with the Las Vegas Locomotives of the United Football League.

At the same time they announced Willy's signing, the Eskimos also announced a contract with former University of Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan..

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U.S. scores historic soccer triumph

The United States gained a rare victory over a men's soccer power, beating Italy, 1-0, in Genoa Wednesday on Clint Dempsey's goal in the 55th minute for its first win over the Azzurri in 11 games over 78 years.

Dempsey took a short pass from Jozy Altidore following Michael Bradley's cross and put a right-footed shot from just inside the penalty area just past an outstretched hand of goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.

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Lin, 'Melo, reserves lead Knicks rally

Jeremy Lin had 19 points and 13 assists, Carmelo Anthony scored 22 and the New York Knicks turned around the game with their reserves to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 120-103 Wednesday. Steve Novak had 17 points off the bench as the Knicks turned a 17-point deficit into an easy win with 71-42 second half.

The Lakers' Kobe Bryant received clearance to play and won't miss a game after being concussed and breaking his nose while fouled in the all-star game.

From News Staff and wire service reports