All along, the Steelers privately expressed confidence that they would re-sign Ike Taylor, and late Tuesday they came through by agreeing to a four-year contract with their best cornerback over the past decade.
Money terms were not immediately available.
Taylor, who told one member of the organization early this week that he would be back, will return for his ninth season. He cannot officially sign his contract until 6 p.m. Friday and cannot join his teammates in practice at training camp until Aug. 4, per a new rule under the collective bargaining agreement.
The Steelers were involved in negotiations with several more of their veteran free agents but had not yet come to terms with anyone but Taylor as of last night. Earlier in the day, they announced the signings of 18 undrafted rookie free agents within an hour after each NFL team could do so at 10 a.m. Tuesday. They then turned toward their own free agents to begin talks, especially with several key players among the 14 unrestricted they hope to re-sign this week.
They were slow getting into serious discussions with their seven rookie draft picks, who could begin signing with teams Tuesday. Veteran free agents can come to verbal agreements with teams but cannot officially sign a contract either with their own team or another until Friday at 6 p.m.
Team officials have determined that among their other top targets to resign are offensive tackles Willie Colon and Jonathan Scott and kicker Shaun Suisham. They also are expected to approach veteran offensive tackle Flozell Adams about taking less than the $5 million salary his contract stipulates. Adams, 36, has expressed a desire to return, but wants to do so as the starting right tackle again.
Identifying the players they want to sign and signing them, however, are different matters. For example, Colon's agent, Joe Linta, has predicted all along that there was little chance their former starting tackle would re-sign.
"They have a weird way of showing interest in us," Linta said after receiving a late afternoon phone call Tuesday from a club official. "We're going to give the Steelers the first shot but we've never received an offer from them. Willie loves the team, the coaches and the city and would love to stay."
Colon missed last season with a torn achilles tendon after starting the previous three seasons at right tackle.
Scott joined the Steelers last year, signing a one-year deal after leaving the Buffalo Bills as a free agent. He wound up starting half the season at left tackle after Max Starks had neck surgery.
Suisham joined the Steelers at midseason after they released longtime kicker Jeff Reed. Suisham made 14 of his 15 field-goal tries in the regular season but missed one from 43 yards in the playoff game against Baltimore and a 52-yarder in the Super Bowl against Green Bay.
The team signed 18 new players to their roster, which has room for 90 when they report to training camp Thursday. All were undrafted free agents, and some were intriguing.
Former Wisconsin running back John Clay was the 2009 Big Ten offensive player of the year, but he gambled and lost when he decided to forego his final season of eligibility with the Badgers.
Clay left college after his junior season in hopes of getting drafted in April, but he never heard his name called.
The Steelers signed Clay Tuesday, the first day NFL clubs could sign undrafted players under the post-lockout rules.
Clay rushed for 3,413 yards and 41 touchdowns in three seasons at Wisconsin, including 1,517 as a sophomore in 2009, but a dip in production last season and a 4.87 40-yard dash time scared off teams from selecting him in the draft.
Other than starter Rashard Mendenhall, the Steelers have three other running backs under contract for the upcoming season -- Isaac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer and James Johnson.
The Steelers drafted Baron Batch out of Texas Tech in the seventh round in April, and Mewelde Moore is an unrestricted free agent.
The Steelers also signed four receivers, including a pair from the Mid-American Conference. Ohio University's Terrence McCrae had 1,242 yards and 19 touchdowns in four seasons with the Bobcats, and Miami University's Armand Robinson had 2,550 yards and 12 touchdowns in four seasons with the Red Hawks.
The other receivers signed were Adam Mims (831 yards and four touchdowns) of Furman and Eric Greenwood (1,246 yards and 11 touchdowns) of Idaho.
The other undrafted free agents signed were Vaughn Charlton, a tight end/H-back from Temple; Weslye Saunders, a tight end from South Carolina; Colin Miller, a center from Central Michigan; Trevis Turner, an offensive tackle from Abilene Christian; Brett Greenwood, a safety from Iowa; Niles Brinkley, a cornerback from Wisconsin; Eric Clanton, an outside linebacker from The Citadel; Mario Harvey, a linebacker from Marshall; Miguel Chavis, a defensive end from Clemson; Anthony Gray, a defensive tackle from Southern Miss; Ty Boyle, a defensive end from North Dakota; Joshua Harrison, an offensive tackle from South Carolina State; and Derek Chard, a long snapper from Connecticut.
Saunders was considered a possible high-round draft pick at one point, and some had him as the second best tight end in the draft.
He was suspended from the South Carolina football team, however, and then booted off for violating team rules. He was judged to have received improper benefits and making contact with an agent. Saunders went undrafted.
The Steelers did not sign a punter or kicker. Suisham and punter Daniel Sepulveda are unrestricted free agents. The Steelers have possible replacements for them already on the roster in Jeremy Kapinos and Swayze Waters.
Kapinos handled the punting duties for the final four games of the regular season and playoffs last season.
The Steelers and all other NFL teams are allowed to have 90 players in camp this summer.