Steelers re-work multiple deals to create cap room

Updated: March 16, 2006, 12:41 PM ET
Associated Press

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers center Jeff Hartings has reworked his contract, agreeing to a $5.8 million, two-year contract that also pays him a $1.75 million signing bonus -- a deal that creates an extra $2.1 million in salary cap room for the team.

 Jeff Hartings
Hartings

The Steelers, trying to retain many of the key components of their first Super Bowl championship team in 26 years, also worked up new contracts for quarterback Charlie Batch, running back Duce Staley, backup center Chukky Okobi, tight end Jerame Tuman and linebacker Clint Kriewaldt.

Hartings, a Pro Bowl center who has reworked his contract several times in past seasons, previously had a 2006 salary cap value of $8.1 million that was far above that of any other Steelers player. Hartings is to make $2.2 million this year and $3.6 million in 2007.

But while Hartings will return in 2006, the Steelers may have signaled this could be Hartings' last season with them by also reworking Okobi's deal. He will make $585,000 this season, down from the $2 million he would have made in his previous deal.

Director of football operations Kevin Colbert doesn't think the Steelers have to restructure any more contacts to stay under the 2006 salary cap of about $102 million.

"We're good," he said.

Batch, who moved ahead of Tommy Maddox to become Ben Roethlisberger's top backup last season, signed a three-year deal that will pay him about $1 million this season. Maddox, the Steelers' starter in 2002 and 2003, was released earlier this month.

Staley, injured or inactive most of last season as Willie Parker and the now-retired Jerome Bettis got most of the carries, agreed to a base salary of $1 million -- down from the $1.5 million he was to have made. However, his deal includes numerous performance bonuses, including $500,000 for 1,250 yards and $250,000 for 1,000 yards.

The latest Steelers deals came during a busy week in which they re-signed defensive end Brett Keisel and signed safety Ryan Clark to replace two starters who left through free agency. They also re-signed tight end Jerame Tuman to a $4.25 million, three-year deal to remain as Heath Miller's backup.

Keisel agreed to a $13.1 million, four-year deal to replace Kimo von Oelhoffen, who signed with the New York Jets. Keisel has never started a game in four Steelers seasons, but had three sacks as a backup last season.

Clark was given a $7.1 million, four-year contract that includes a $1.65 million signing bonus after two-year Steelers starting safety Chris Hope signed a six-year deal with the Tennessee Titans.

The Steelers haven't made a move to replace wide receiver Antwaan Randle El, who signed with the Redskins, and plan to replace him with Cedrick Wilson, their top free agent signing of a year ago.

With the exception of two restricted free agents, cornerback Ike Taylor and cornerback Deshea Townsend, the Steelers have all of their starters under contract for the next two seasons. They have the right to match any offers made to Taylor or Townsend.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press