The Steelers are trying to work out a long-term deal to keep nose tackle Casey Hampton from becoming an unrestricted free agent, but they will use the franchise tag on the five-time Pro Bowl selection if they can't, the Post-Gazette has learned.
The Steelers have until Thursday to place the franchise tag on Hampton, a designation that would keep him with the team for at least one more season and guarantee him the average salary of the top five defensive linemen in the National Football League.
The Steelers could then attempt to sign the 10-year veteran to a long-term contract, much like they did last season when they named Max Starks their franchise player and eventually signed him to a four-year, $26.3 million contract that included a $10 million signing bonus.
And it appears they are prepared to do that if they can't reach an agreement before Thursday's deadline.
Hampton, who will be 33 in September, has indicated to the Steelers he does not want to have the franchise tag placed on him.