Steelers Free Agent Signings Address Needs

Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial

Thursday, April 10, 2008
By Paul Eide
Steelers Fever Columnist


The first word that comes to mind when assessing the Steelers free agent acquisitions this offseason has to be "modest". The Steelers weren't expected to make any significant, "big name" signings and they didn't, even when it came to re-signing the best offensive lineman on the market, Alan Faneca, who signed a contract with the New York Jets. But instead of throwing huge money at available "name" players like the Jets did, the Steelers addressed needs at cost effective prices.

Whether or not the free agent signing period of 2008 is deemed a "success" is based upon the team's ability to reach deals with WR Nate Washington and T Max Starks but in all likelihood both players will be in Pittsburgh again for 2008 considering that Washington hasn't garnered that much league wide-interest and Starks is the Steelers "Transition Player". After viewing this list it becomes obvious that there is plenty of work left to do on draft day later this month.

FA Signings

Mewelde Moore, RB
Contract: Three years, $4.95 million

Mewelde MooreMoore was signed to pick up the special teams slack that was created when veteran Allen Rossum was released. Additionally, he is also a very capable running back who can contribute on the ground and via the passing game. Over his four years with the Vikings, Moore averaged 4.9 yards per carry on 264 carries and averaged 36 receptions per year during his first three years in Minnesota. He also averaged 20 yards per kick return and 10.4 yards per punt return during his time in the NFC North.

Justin Hartwig, C
Contract: Two years, $3.7 million

Justin HartwigSince joining Carolina after coming over from Tennessee, Hartwig wasn't able to stay healthy or live up to his billing. In Tennessee, Hartwig won the starting center job with four preseason starts after never playing center prior to training camp. He started 47 games in 3 years and departed for Carolina free agency after that. In 2006 Hartwig started one game before being placed on IR with a groin injury. The injury gave rookie Ryan Kalil a chance to shine in his absence and ultimately led to Hartwig's release this offseason. Hartwig has enough to prove and is young enough to turn into the player he was in Tennessee for his new employer, the Steelers.

Keyaron Fox, LB
Contract: One year, $645,000

Keyaron FoxFox spent his first four NFL seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, playing primarily on special teams and as a backup. He was a third-round pick in the 2004 NFL Draft out of Georgia Tech. Fox had 21 tackles in 2007, with 10 of them coming in the season finale versus the New York Jets in his only start of the year. In 2006 he had a career high 52 tackles and started four games. Primarily a speacial teams player, Fox will not be relied upon too much on defense barring injury but the ability to do so exists should the need arise.

Re-signings

Chris Kemoeatu, OG
Contract: One year, $1.42 million

A former sixth rounder out of Utah, with the departure of Alan Faneca, Kemoeatu becomes the starter at left guard by default even though he has only started two games in three years. In those three years, Kemoeatu did appear in a total of 18 games. Will he get the chance to prove he is more than the back-up? If the Steelers select guard Branden Albert of Virginia in the Draft, we may never know.

Nick Eason, DE
Contract: Two years, undisclosed amount

The 6-foot-3, 305-pounder will be entering his sixth year in the NFL and second with the Steelers, after originally inking a deal with the club as an unrestricted free agent on April 16, 2007. Prior to joining the Steelers, Eason spent 2003 with the Denver Broncos and the following three campaigns with the Cleveland Browns. Eason has played in 46 career games and recorded 39 tackles, including three sacks.

Trai Essex, OL
Contract: One year, $927,000

Essex was retained for his ability to play either guard or tackle at a very cheap price. Can he play? That's the question. Like Kemoeatu, Essex has seen limited action in three years, starting only four games but has appeared in a total of 24 games. It's now or never for both Essex and Kemoeatu.

Greg Warren, LS
Contract: Three years, $2.3 million

Warren is entering his fourth year in the NFL and joined the Steelers as an undrafted free agent from North Carolina and handles all long snapping for the Steelers. He has played in 48 straight regular-season games, as well as five postseason games including the Super Bowl.

Andre Frazier, LB
Contract: One year, undisclosed amount

Frazier is primarily a special teams player and contributed 12 tackles and one fumble recovery last year. Originally signed by the Steelers in 2005, he accumulated 12 tackles on special teams that year. He then cut the following season and signed with the hated Bengals where he started one game in the next two years prior to resigning with Pittsburgh in 2007.