For a team that historically has tiptoed into free agency, the Steelers dived headfirst and unleashed a flurry of activity that began with the quick signing of two unrestricted free agents and ended Monday with a new four-year, $14 million contract for free safety Ryan Clark and a three-year agreement to bring receiver Antwaan Randle El back to his former team.
Randle El, one of their Super Bowl XL heroes who played for the Steelers from 2002-05, is expected to visit the Steelers today to sign his contract. He was released four days ago by the Washington Redskins despite being their second-leading receiver in '09.
But that's not all.
After signing Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Will Allen and San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Arnaz Battle to three-year contracts Monday, the Steelers will sign another unrestricted free agent today with whom they already have reached contract agreement -- former Buffalo Bills offensive tackle Jonathan Scott.
But, in what was probably the busiest free-agent day in franchise history, the most important transaction was reaching contract agreement with Clark, who, after meeting with the Miami Dolphins Monday, decided he didn't want to leave Pittsburgh or the Steelers organization.
Clark's deal, which averages $3.5 million, came just hours after the team signed Allen, 27, to a three-year, $4.4 million contract that included a $975,000 signing bonus.
"In the end, he went somewhere and saw for him and his family that he'd rather be in Pittsburgh," said Joel Turner, Clark's agent. "They want to be a fixture in that community. They're wonderful people. They're glad to be in Pittsburgh for four more years and beyond."
Instead of having a chance to possibly replace Clark, Allen is expected to replace veteran Tyrone Carter as a backup safety and be used on special teams.
Allen and Battle, who played seven seasons in San Francisco, each signed with the Steelers just hours after making their first visit to the team's South Side practice facility. Battle's three-year deal is worth $3.9 million with a $975,000 signing bonus.
"I thought it was a great fit; I thought it was a great move," said Allen, who was with the Buccaneers when Mike Tomlin was their secondary coach. "It was time for a change, time for a new fresh look. What better place than to be in Pittsburgh -- with a championship team and vying for a world championship every year and playing with a great group of guys and great coaches. I'm just excited about that right now."
A former special teams captain for the Buccaneers, Allen played in only eight games last season after being placed on injured reserve with a thumb injury. He was a fourth-round draft choice out of Ohio State in '04 who has four interceptions in 84 career games.
Battle, 30, had 178 catches for 2,150 yards and 11 touchdowns in seven seasons with the 49ers, but his production declined sharply the past two seasons, especially in '09 when he had only five catches for 40 yards.
Battle will be used as a possible fourth wide receiver with the Steelers and, like Allen, is considered a special teams standout. He will be reunited with the Steelers with new special teams coach Al Everest, who coached in San Francisco last season.
"I think they were making a change as far as their direction," Battle said of the 49ers. "Isaac Bruce and myself were one of the two veterans and we were given different roles. They wanted to go with the younger receivers, Josh Morgan, Brandon Jones from Tennessee and they had [No. 1 pickMichael] Crabtree so it was just kind of going in a different direction."
Scott (6 feet 6, 318 pounds), who started two games at right tackle and six games at left tackle for the Bills last season, will visit Steelers offices today and is expected to sign a multiyear contract, a move that will reunite him with Sean Kugler, his position coach in Buffalo.
A former fifth-round draft choice of the Detroit Lions in 2006, Scott was a restricted free agent who did not receive a contract tender from the Bills, making him an unrestricted free agent.
Gerry Dulac: firstname.lastname@example.org . First Published March 9, 2010 5:00 AM