In a very un-Steelerlike move, the Steelers added five free agents today. That’s right, five. I can’t remember the last time the Steelers have signed that many Free agents at once. I’m not talking about unsigned college seniors. That’s normal this time of year. Nope, they signed 5 veteran free agents. It usually takes the Steelers about 7 years to sign that many veteran free agents. Of course, not all of them are going to make the roster, but still….
The team added cornerback Keiwan Ratliff, punter Dirk Johnson, wide receivers Shaun McDonald and Jayson Foster, and kicker Piotr (peet-er) Czech.
Ratliff (5-11, 188) was originally drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the second round (49th overall) of the 2004 NFL Draft out of Florida. He most recently spent a portion of the 2007 and 2008 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts and finished with 34 tackles and two interceptions during his time with the Colts.
Ratliff spent three full seasons with the Bengals before being released in September, 2007. He was then signed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and spent two weeks on their active roster before being released.
I like this move. Although the Steelers drafted 2 rookie cornerbacks, it might be a bit much to expect either of them to contribute so soon. Having another veteran in camp should take some pressure off the rookies and allow them to develop at a more normal pace.
Johnson (6-0, 210) enters his eighth NFL season after playing 12 games with the Arizona Cardinals in 2008. He averaged 41.8 yards on 40 punts with the Cardinals, including a 35.2-yard net average. In 69 career games played, Johnson has averaged 41.7 yards on 320 punts (13,356 total yards).
Johnson, 33, originally signed with the Seattle Seahawks as an undrafted rookie out of Northern Colorado in 1998. He was released in training camp by the Seahawks (’98), New York Jets (’99) and San Diego Chargers (’01), before playing with the New Orleans Saints (‘02), Philadelphia Eagles (‘03-06), Chicago Bears (’07) and the Cardinals. Johnson was released by Arizona last December and signed with the Washington Redskins in March 2009 before being released in April.
I’m going to assume that Dan Sepulveda has healed from his injury, and that the Steelers are just bringing Johnson in to add a little competition during training camp. However, perhaps there is something that we don’t know about the pace at which Sepulveda is healing. Either way, I’m glad that we won’t be hearing the names Berger and Ernster this year.
McDonald (5-10, 183) was originally drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the fourth round (106th overall) of the 2003 NFL Draft out of Arizona State. McDonald spent four years with the Rams before signing with the Detroit Lions during the 2007 offseason. He led the Lions with 79 catches, 943 yards and six touchdowns that season.
Foster (5-7, 185) spent time on the Steelers’ practice squad in 2008. He originally signed with the Miami Dolphins in 2008 as an undrafted rookie from Georgia Southern. He was on the Denver Broncos’ practice squad towards the end of the 2008 season, but was released by the Broncos on April 28, 2009.
Foster probably won’t be a factor this year, but McDonald is a good acquisition. He is an experienced veteran who can compete in training camp with Limas Sweed, Dallas Baker, Martin Nance, rookie Mike Wallace, and the 3 undrafted free agents that they recently signed, for a position on the roster. I like the competition that is being set up, and my money is on Ward, Holmes, McDonald, Sweed, and Wallace to emerge as the Steelers wide receiver corps this year.
Frankly, I’m a tad disappointed that they didn’t sign Asley Lelie. After both sides indicated that they’d had a good meeting earlier this week, I was hoping that he’d become a Steeler. Oh well.
Czech (6-5, 210) spent the 2008 training camp with the Baltimore Ravens after signing as a rookie free agent out of Wagner College.
Czech is training camp fodder to be chewed up and spit out by Steelers’ super kicker Jeff Reed. Good luck Piotr. But I wouldn’t suggest buying a house in Pittsburgh.
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