Steelers hedge bets, sign Simmons to a four-year extension

Sign 8 to practice squad

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Kendall Simmons fought for his starting job in training game and reaped the financial rewards yesterday.

Simmons, the Steelers' starting right guard since he was drafted in the first round in 2002, signed on for four more years.

The four-year extension was worth $23.1 million and his five-year contract totals $24 million, plus another $1 million in incentives. He has guaranteed money of $8.5 million with a $7.85 million signing bonus, among the handful of largest in Steelers history.

The first three years are worth $15 million. The deal was negotiated by Omar Kahn of the Steelers and Eric Metz, a Monroeville native.

The deal is the last one the Steelers will complete this year. They turned to Simmons when they realized they had no chance to sign six-time Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca.

That means veterans Faneca, linebacker Clark Haggans, fullback Dan Kreider and tackle Max Starks will play under the final year of their contracts. They will become unrestricted free agents in March unless they sign a new contract after the season or if the Steelers take a rare step for them and name someone such as Faneca their franchise player.

Like Faneca, Simmons was a first-round draft choice who became a starter as a rookie. He has remained at right guard despite two physical setbacks -- he was diagnosed with adult diabetes just before the start of the 2003 training camp, and he missed all of 2004 when the ACL in his right knee was torn in training camp.

This summer, he faced another hurdle when Steelers coaches acknowledged that third-year guard Chris Kemoeatu would compete with Simmons to start.

A week into training camp, Simmons declared the competition over.

After Simmons secured his starting position again, and once they concluded pursuing Faneca was a lost cause, the Steelers decided to enter serious negotiations on an extension for their right guard.

Besides playing guard, Simmons likely will serve as the backup to center Sean Mahan in games.

Despite his knee injury and ongoing fight against diabetes, Simmons has started 30 of 32 regular-season games the past two years to go with his 14 starts as a rookie and 16 in 2003 after he lost 30 pounds that summer before the diabetes was diagnosed.

He said he has learned better how to deal with his diabetes the past four years.

"I feel as every year goes on, you learn your body more and you figure it out," Simmons said. "You'll still have those ups and downs, that's part of the disease I have. You can't whip it, that's not going to happen. But you have to know how to adjust quickly when things happen. Every year I get better at that.

"I'll be fine. Just stay on top of it. That will not be a problem."

NOTES -- The Steelers also were busy signing eight other players yesterday to their practice squad. Seven of the eight were with them in training camp and released on the final cut Saturday, including two rookie draft picks, wide receiver Dallas Baker and defensive end Ryan McBean. They also signed center/guard Marvin Philip, who spent his rookie season on the 53-man roster last year. Other players in camp who are on the practice squad are tight end Jon Dekker, safety Grant Mason, defensive tackle Scott Paxson and wide receiver Gerran Walker. Running back Jamaal Branch, who spent the 2007 preseason with New Orleans, is the eighth player. ... Safety Mike Lorello, announced as released Saturday, was waived injured. No information was available on the injury to Lorello, who played in Thursday's preseason game in Carolina.


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