Steelers Team Report
Yahoo! Sports
Mar 21, 1:30 pm EDT

After their most prolific week of free agency in club history, the Pittsburgh Steelers are done, at least for now or until something else strikes their fancy.

Within a week’s time, the Steelers signed six unrestricted free agents, including one of their own in safety Ryan Clark and former members Larry Foote and Antwaan Randle El.

“We had the flurry of activity,” said director of football operations Kevin Colbert. “We’ll continue to monitor our own (free agents) as well as others, but really the focus is going to shift more heavily toward the college draft.”

Not one Steelers free agent has signed elsewhere and they locked up all three of the priorities they publicly identified before the period began—Clark, nose tackle Casey Hampton and kicker Jeff Reed. They added six to that list last week—safety Will Allen, wide receivers Arnaz Battle, tackle Jonathan Scott along with Clark, Foote and Randle El.

The new contracts—including Hampton’s and the franchise tag on Reed—total $63,259,000, including $14.1 million in signing bonuses.

It was the most aggressive week in free agency they’ve had since it began in 1993, especially in recent years. Last year, they signed only two low-level free agents late in the game, cornerback Keiwan Ratliff and wide receiver Shaun McDonald. In each of 2008 and 2007, they signed three, and in each of 2006 and 2005 they signed one.

“We never go into an off season with ‘X’ number of players we want to sign,” Colbert said.”However, there were players available that we felt could help us and we were able to make a deal.”

Re-signing Foote, who asked for his release and got it last year so he could play in his hometown of Detroit, gives the Steelers more flexibility across their four linebackers. Lawrence Timmons replaced Foote as the starter inside and James Farrior has slowed down at 35. Foote can play either spot inside and if a starter goes down on the outside, Timmons can move to the outside.

The signing of Will Allen likely means that veteran safety Tyrone Carter will not be back. [HIGH-LIGHT]And adding two veteran receivers likely means the end for troubled 2008 second-round pick Limas Sweed, although he will go to training camp.[/HIGH-LIGHT]

The Steelers have talked to none of their other free agents, which include halfback Willie Parker, cornerback Deshea Townsend and defensive ends Nick Eason and Travis Kirschke.

“We’ll never close the door on any of our guys,” Colbert said.


• The first two visits by college prospects to the Steelers facility did not have to travel far. Pitt tight ends Dorin Dickerson and Nate Byham merely walked next door in their shared facility on the city’s South Side. The two do not count against the 30 visits the team is permitted to have from college players. The Steelers will wait until after the NFL meetings to start visits by others.

• When the Steelers opened their offseason training program Monday, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was nowhere to be seen. But then, he hasn’t been seen publicly since his March 5 late-night foray in small-town Georgia that resulted in sexual assault claims by a young woman that still are being investigated. Roethlisberger has pulled out of the Kraft Nabisco Championship Celebrity Pro-Am golf tourney in California.

• You can’t go home again? LB Larry Foote will try for the second time in a year after a disappointing one-season stay in his hometown of Detroit. He returned to the Steelers with a three-year, $9.3 million contract.

“In my heart I’m a Steeler and, when I left last year, they told me I’d always be one,” Foote said. “I just didn’t think I was going to be back here.”

Quote To Note: “You can’t use the word ‘cap’ but we’re going to do things within our own structure.”—Kevin Colbert on the team’s self-imposed salary cap.


Offseason Update

Pittsburgh finished off its most aggressive week in free agency ever with six signings in seven days, and that’s pretty much it the rest of the way for the Steelers. They will consider re-signing a few of their own free agents and perhaps if another one pops loose that intrigues them, but for the most part, the party is over for them.

For a team that signed two low-level free agents nearly two months after the period began in 2009 and which has not been active for years, the Steelers made what for them was a splash by re-signing S Ryan Clark, and adding former Steelers LB Larry Foote and WR Antwaan Randle El along with S Will Allen, WR Arnaz Battle and OT Jonathan Scott. Before free agency began, they signed NT Casey Hampton to a new deal and franchised K Jeff Reed.

The eight contracts total $63,259,000, including $14.1 million in signing bonuses.

They will leave the door open to their own UFAs such as RB Willie Parker, CB Deshea Townsend and DE Nick Eason and DE Travis Kirschke, but now turn their attention to the college players.

“We had the flurry of activity,” said director of football operations Kevin Colbert. “We’ll continue to monitor our own (free agents) as well as others, but really the focus is going to shift more heavily toward the college draft.”

The Steelers still need to add cornerbacks, defensive linemen and backup linebackers. However, their plate is full at wide receiver by adding the two veterans to go with Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes and Mike Wallace.

Team Needs

1. Cornerback: Even though the Steelers drafted corners in the third and fifth rounds last season, they got woeful play at the position and could lose starter and RFA William Gay and veteran UFA Deshea Townsend.

2. Defensive line: Although they re-signed NT Casey Hampton and drafted a defensive end in the first round last season, the Steelers’ three starters are all in their 30s. They need to groom someone to take over for Hampton and one defensive end over the next two years.

3. Linebacker: The Steelers added some depth with the signing of ILB Larry Foote, but James Farrior will be 35 this season and James Harrison 32.

Medical Watch: No updates.

Franchise Player: PK Jeff Reed (tendered at $2.814M).

Transition Player: None.

Unrestricted Free Agents

• QB Charlie Batch is a reliable, when healthy, backup and that is the issue because he missed all of 2008 and ended 2009 with a broken wrist. [HIGH-LIGHT]He wants to return.[/HIGH-LIGHT]

• LB Rocky Boiman was a late edition to try to save their drowning special teams. He’s not likely to return.

• SS Tyrone Carter won’t get a contract from the Steelers again unless he finds nothing from anywhere else.

• DE Nick Eason, if he’s willing to return at a minimum salary, could re-sign.

• WR Joey Galloway was a late signing after Limas Sweed was placed on injured reserve. He did not dress for either game and he is not likely to be invited back.

• DE Travis Kirschke, although he turns 36 this year, has been dependable and could re-sign if he does not go elsewhere, especially if they get nothing at the position in the draft.

• RB Willie Parker has seen his last days in Pittsburgh. They would love to have him back as a backup to Rashard Mendenhall but he wants more playing time than that.

• CB Deshea Townsend thinks he can still start in the league and the Steelers have no plans for him to do that. If he finds nothing of his liking in free agency, they will offer him a contract to return.

Unrestricted Free Agents (not tendered offers)

• RB Carey Davis (not tendered as RFA)..

• OG Darnell Stapleton (not tendered as RFA) was their starting right guard until an injury put him on injured reserve.

Restricted Free Agents (*indicates restricted because of uncapped year)

• *OT Willie Colon (tendered at $2.521M with first-round pick as compensation) entering third season as starter at right tackle.

• CB William Gay (tendered at $1.101M with fifth-round pick as compensation) had a disappointing first season as a starter but not bad enough that they want to lose him.

• P Daniel Sepulveda (tendered at $1.101M with fourth-round pick as compensation) was middle of the road and not likely to receive a high tender. He was drafted in the fourth round.

• TE Matt Spaeth (tendered at $1.101M with fifth-round pick as compensation) is No. 2 behind Heath Miller. He plays a lot but rarely is used as a target and he’s not a good blocker.

Exclusive Rights Free Agents: None.

Players Re-signed

• LB Patrick Bailey: ERFA; terms unknown.

• FS Ryan Clark: UFA; $14M/4 yrs, $3M SB.

• NT Casey Hampton: Potential UFA; $21.3M/3 yrs, $11M guaranteed/$6.5M SB.

Players Acquired

• S Will Allen: UFA Buccaneers; $4.4M/3 yrs, $950,000 SB.

• WR Arnaz Battle: UFA 49ers; $3.975/3 yrs, $975,000 SB.

• LB Derrick Doggett: CFL FA; terms unknown.

• LB Larry Foote: UFA Lions; $9.3M/3 yrs, $1.8M SB.

• WR Antwaan Randle El: FA Redskins; $7M/3 yrs, $900,000 SB.

• OT Jonathan Scott: Not tendered as RFA by Bills; $545,000/1 yr.

Players Lost: None.