Okobi: 'Ridiculous' he got cut

Arizona center believes he should still be Steeler


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TEMPE, Ariz. -- Former center Chukky Okobi said it is "ridiculous" he wasn't included on the Steelers' 53-man roster and that he would have made the team if Bill Cowher were still the head coach.

Okobi also said he didn't think there was a fair competition for the starting center position, saying it was predetermined Sean Mahan would replace retired Jeff Hartings when Mahan was signed in free agency.

Nonetheless, he said he has no animosity toward his former team or coach Mike Tomlin and understands why the decision was made to cut him after six years.

"To think I wasn't good enough to be on that team is ridiculous," said Okobi, a backup center with the Arizona Cardinals, where he has been reunited with head coach Ken Whisenhunt and offensive line coach Russ Grimm. "But I know how this business works. I've been in this league a long time. Part of it is money, and they're doing what they feel they need to do. It's their team now. It's not Bill Cowher's team."

Okobi was signed by the Cardinals when starting center Al Johnson injured his knee in the season-opening loss in San Francisco. Johnson, though, participated in a full practice yesterday and likely will start against the Steelers.

Arizona probably will be without rookie right tackle Levi Brown (ankle), their No. 1 draft choice from Penn State. Brown practiced on only a limited basis yesterday.

Okobi, a fifth-round choice in 2001, had three years remaining on a contract that was scheduled to pay him $2 million annually. But he and second-year center Marvin Phillip were cut in favor of rookie free agent Darnell Stapleton, even though Okobi came to training camp as the starter.

"I really don't feel it was a competition; I feel it was predetermined," Okobi said. "Sean is more than capable. I got nothing against him. It's that he doesn't deserve to be the starter. It just is what it is.

"If Bill was still there, I'd still be there. I will say this, if Bill Cowher, in the 15 years he's been in league, believed I was the guy, that has to count for something because he obviously knew what he was doing."



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