Harris, who started with Super Bowl-winning Denver in 2015, inks a two-year deal, but Steelers lose Beachum, McLendon to other teams
March 15, 2016 9:06 PM
Charlie Riedel/Associated Press
Former Denver Broncos tackle Ryan Harris is visiting with the Steelers at their practice facility on the South Side today.
By Ray Fittipaldo / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Steelers continued to remake their offensive roster Tuesday when they signed free-agent tackle Ryan Harris, a 16-game starter for the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos. The strategy in the free-agency period has been to build around an already potent offense that ranked among the best in the league in 2015.
It appears the Steelers are going to wait until the draft next month to address some of their needs on defense, including nose tackle after veteran Steve McLendon signed a free-agent deal Tuesday night with the New York Jets, according to Newsday.
A few hours after Harris signed his two-year, $3.9 million deal with the Steelers, Kelvin Beachum signed a two-year deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars. A seventh-round draft choice in 2012, Beachum spent most of the past three seasons as the Steelers’ starting left tackle.
The Steelers have signed six players in the past week and four of them play offense. Harris, who turned 31 last week, is the second outside free agent the Steelers signed. They signed former San Diego Chargers tight end Ladarius Green to a four-year, $20 million contract last week.
The Steelers also re-signed starting left guard Ramon Foster and receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey before the free-agency period opened March 9. The only two defensive players who have re-signed are cornerback William Gay and safety Robert Golden. Two other starters from last season remain free agents — cornerback Antwon Blake and safety Will Allen.
McLendon started 31 games over the past three seasons after taking over at nose tackle for Casey Hampton in 2013. The Steelers have 2014 sixth-round pick Daniel McCullers waiting in the wings, but they are likely to invest a high draft choice in a defensive tackle, which is one of the deepest positions in the draft this year.
Harris’ signing signaled the end for Beachum, who started 39 games over the past four seasons. The Steelers failed to sign Beachum to a long-term contract extension before last season. In October, in a Week 6 victory against the Cardinals, the ACL in his left knee was torn and he missed the rest of the season.
Harris was signed to compete with Alejandro Villanueva, who started the final 12 games in Beachum’s absence.
“I see myself as a veteran offensive tackle with dozens of starts and a Super Bowl championship ring that can come in and provide both leadership and talent to an already talented and well-led organization,” Harris said.
When asked if he expects to start, Harris replied: “I’ll expect to achieve the goals that I set for myself. In years past that’s always worked for me, and I’ll plan to do that again.”
Harris, who has 70 career starts on his NFL resume, signed a one-year contract with the Broncos last spring after starter Ryan Clady was lost for the season with a knee injury. He started 16 regular-season games and all three postseason contests at left tackle. In the first seven seasons of his career he played mostly right tackle.
“I think it went extremely smooth considering how smooth that Super Bowl ring is going to be,” Harris said of his transition to left tackle. “I thought it was a great opportunity for me to assist my team and contribute to winning games and ultimately winning a championship. I had a great time in Denver. We keep our home there, but I’m excited for this challenge.”
Harris was chosen by the Broncos in the third round of the 2007 draft and spent the first four seasons of his career in Denver. He played for the Houston Texans in 2012 and 2013 and the Kansas City Chiefs in 2014.
He has played in zone and power running schemes and does not expect a big transition coming to the Steelers, who remain a mostly power run-oriented team.
“I’ve had equal years in the power and zone scheme,” he said. “They’re really the same plays. It’s just a matter of the philosophy behind them. I’m quite confident to succeeding in either style. I look forward learning the philosophies behind this offense.”
Harris said playing for offensive line coach Mike Munchak was a selling point, but competing for Super Bowls was the most important thing to him as he enters his 10th season in the NFL.
“Coach Munchak and coach Tomlin, the city of Pittsburgh, being on the good side of the Terrible Towel will be fun. … But for me, at this point in my career, I want to continue to play for championship-caliber teams,” Harris said. “Teams whose goal is to win a championship. And that couldn’t be any clearer when you walk the halls of this organization.”
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