PITTSBURGH — A man who claims his girlfriend had a “physical relationship” with retired Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward faces a preliminary hearing on charges he tried to extort $15,000 by threatening to release evidence that the retired Pittsburgh Steelers great had paid for sex.

Twenty-six-year-old Joshua Van Auker, of Pittsburgh, was arrested last week after he allegedly met with Ward’s personal assistant who paid the money before district attorney’s detectives arrested Van Auker.

Online court records don’t list an attorney for Van Auker, who has not returned a message requesting comment.

Ward’s representatives say he didn’t know about the alleged extortion attempt until after the fact and have called Van Auker’s alleged crimes “the act of a desperate individual trying to get money from a celebrity.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.