Before this week, the Steelers were working their way up from the bottom of their draft, signing rookies in the reverse order they selected them last month.
Then came the LaMarr Woodley windfall, and Thursday they went right to the top to sign linebacker Ryan Shazier, their first-rounder, to a four-year contract worth $9.5 million.
Woodley was released in March with a June designation, which meant the savings on his $8 million salary for 2014 would not come until June 2. Because another player’s salary had to replace his on the top 51 that counts in the offseason, the Steelers received about $7.5 million more in salary cap space.
They used some of that to sign Shazier, as more than half of his contract comes in a signing bonus of $5.23 million with nearly all of it, $9 million, guaranteed against injury.
All drafted rookies are required to sign four-year contracts with the exception of first-rounders, who are subject to a fifth-year club option.
Shazier, who played at Ohio State, has been practicing with the first team at inside linebacker this spring. No rookie has started a regular-season opener on defense for the Steelers since 2001.
His signing leaves the Steelers with three of their nine draft picks unsigned: Stephon Tuitt (second round), Dri Archer (third round) and Martavis Bryant (fourth round).
Ed Bouchette: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @EdBouchette.