The Steelers will have all of their players under contract for the fourth consecutive year when they report to training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe tomorrow.
Yesterday, the reached agreements with their top two draft choices, running back Rashard Mendenhall and wide receiver Limas Sweed.
Mendenhall, their-first round draft pick, came to terms on a five-year, $12.55 million contract. Sweed, their second-round choice, agreed to a four-year contract in principle. Terms are not yet available.
Mendenhall's deal includes bonuses of $6.83 million, guarantees of $7,125,000 and total cash value of $9,855,000 with an escalator that makes the contract worth $12.55 million.
"Rashard's excited," said agent Mike McCartney of Priority Sports in Chicago. "For the rookie, it's great to know the business part is finished and he can concentrate on what Rashard loves most, football. He even has a day or two to celebrate, so it works out good for him."
The Steelers have had few problems over the past decade getting their rookies into camp on time. The last one who missed any time was quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who signed four days after the opening of training camp in 2004. The only two players who missed more than a week over the past decade were third-round draft choice Hank Poteat in 2000 and first-round pick Alan Faneca in 1998.
McCartney credited negotiator Omar Khan with facilitating the process.
"I give Omar credit. He does a great job working with you, there's a good amount of give and take. He works very hard to get a fair deal for both sides."
The agent said there was never a hint that the Steelers' process of working out their ownership affected negotiations.
"No, I didn't think it would impact our negotiations at all and I don't think it did. If anything, our negotiations were affected a little by the uncertainty of the CBA because of the changes in rules over the next couple years affecting us."
The NFL's collective bargaining agreement was shortened by the owners this year and will end in the spring of 2011 with no salary cap for the 2010 season unless it is extended further in talks between the owners and the NFL Players Association.
Even before he had the contract agreement, Mendenhall continued to work out at the Steelers' facility through the end of this week.
"He's in good shape," McCartney said. "He's hungry to prove that he deserved to be drafted where he was. He's excited to be with a great city and a great team. He was real excited when I talked with him."
Mendenhall could not be reached for comment, and a Steelers spokesman said no one from the club would comment until tomorrow.
Mendenhall (5 feet 10, 225 pounds) rushed for 2,539 yards and 22 touchdowns in three seasons for Illinois. He set school records with 1,681 yards rushing last season and 17 touchdowns. He's the first running back drafted in the first round by the Steelers since 1989, when they drafted Tim Worley of Georgia.
Ed Bouchette can be reached at email@example.com . First Published July 26, 2008 4:00 AM