Steelers to bring Staley in for visit

Updated: March 8, 2004, 8:53 AM ET
Associated Press

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers stayed in-house Saturday to make their first major free-agent signing of the offseason, bringing back linebacker Clark Haggans in a move that likely means former All-Pro outside linebacker Jason Gildon won't return.

Haggans, a reserve since being a fifth-round draft pick in 2000, signed a $10.2 million, four-year contract that includes a $3 million signing bonus. He has been used primarily as a pass rusher on passing downs and on special teams, getting six sacks in 2002.

Haggans also visited the Lions and Giants last week before returning to Pittsburgh, which was outbid for free-agent linebackers Marcus Washington and Carlos Emmons. Washington signed Friday with the Redskins. Emmons, a former Steelers player, reached terms with the Giants.

Haggans, 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds, had 10 unassisted tackles, a sack, a pass deflection and a forced fumble last season and was the special teams captain. He had a season-high nine tackles filling in for injured starter Joey Porter in the season opener against Baltimore.

Since the season ended, Haggans was sentenced in Brighton, Colo., to 10 days in jail for driving while impaired. Haggans' sentence includes six months of probation and 24 hours of public service. The jail time can be served out of state. A hearing is scheduled Aug. 31 to review his case.

With the Steelers right at the $80.6 million salary cap, they can't make any more significant moves until they free up some cap room -- something they could do by releasing Gildon, whose production has dropped off in the last two seasons.

The Steelers will bring in free agent running back Duce Staley for a visit Sunday as they look to get their trademark running game going again after it finished next-to-last in the league last season.

Running back Jerome Bettis previously agreed to a large salary cut, from more than $4 million to $1 million plus incentives, but the Steelers also want to sign or draft another running back. They are expected to release or trade Amos Zereoue, who averaged only 3.3 yards per carry after beginning last season as a starter.

Staley previously visited with the Bucs and Cowboys and is seeking to move to a team where he will get more carries. He had only 97 carries for 457 yards and scored seven touchdowns last season as Philadelphia lost in the NFC title game for the third consecutive season.

The Steelers may lose another player on defense if they don't match New England's $1.3 million, one-year offer sheet to backup defensive end Rodney Bailey. Bailey, who had 5 sacks in 2002, is a restricted free agent and the Steelers have the right to match any offer to him.

The Patriots' offer includes a $650,000 signing bonus.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press