Rookie free agents: Steelers add another Dawg

Hines Ward started the parade and Kendrell Bell followed to make sure there are at least two Steelers at the University of Georgia Reunion Party scheduled for Honalulu the week after every forseeable Super Bowl.

And this year, a year after adding another Dawg, Verron Haynes, the Steelers drafted fullback J.T. Wall in the seventh round. Late Sunday night the Steelers went back to their new farm team to add the most recognizable name of their new crop of rookie free agents.

The Steelers announced today that wide receiver Terrence Edwards of Georgia is one of 19 rookie free agents they've signed.

Edwards, the younger brother of NFL running back Robert Edwards, was a former basketball player at Georgia before joining the football team in 1999 and catching 53 passes for 772 yards. He started every game in 2000 and again caught 53 passes. In 2001, Edwards' production slipped to 39 receptions, and last year he separated his shoulder but finished with 59 catches for 1,004 yards and 11 touchdowns.

He weighs only 177 pounds, but with a roster spot open Edwards chose to sign with the Steelers and hopes to become the team's second slot receiver behind Antwaan Randle El.

The Steelers also signed a world-class sprinter to compete for that wide receiver job. Leonard Scott of Tennessee is a former NCAA indoor 60-meter champ who caught a career-high 10 passes for 87 yards last season and returned four punts for 49 yards and two kickoffs for 31 yards. His best season as a return man was 1999 when he returned 20 kickoffs for 540 yards (27 ave.) and a touchdown.

Obviously a track man attempting to play football, Scott reportedly showed soft hands at his pro day workout, where he was timed in the 40 at 4.31 and 4.26 seconds. He also had a 35-inch vertical jump and bench-pressed 225 pounds 13 times.

The Steelers also like Kent State defensive end Roy Attieh, a 305-pounder who can play nose tackle. While they were scouting Attieh at Kent, the Steelers noticed cornerback Nashville Dyer, who ran a 4.43 40 and 6.64 3-cone drill. He also had a vertical jump of 37 1/2.

West Virginia University's David Upchurch is another potential end-nose tackle for the Steelers. A three-year starter, Upchurch culminated his college career by being named second-team All-Big East. Considered a technician with a superior work ethic, Upchurch will need to add to his 285-pound frame to earn a job with the Steelers.

Upchurch's mirror image could be fellow free-agent signee Dan Rumishek, a 277-pound defensive lineman from the University of Michigan.

Among the other free-agent signings are running back Dante Brown of Memphis, who gained 902 yards to lead his team in rushing in 2001. He was hobbled with an ankle injury last season and slipped to 562 yards on 133 carries (4.2 average).

Jack Fadule, a 6-5, 316-pound offensive tackle from Harvard, will certainly understand his assignments. The other offensive linemen signed by the Steelers after the draft were center Jimond Pugh of Memphis State and guard Deon White of Jacksonville State.

To bolster their secondary, the Steelers added Dyer, McKeesport native Russell Stuvaints of Youngstown State and fellow safety Rashad Faison of South Carolina.

Another local prospect, Jeremy Conley of Allderdice High School and Duquesne University, will compete for the open roster spot at wide reciver.

Specialists who'll be brought to camp are placekicker Jonathan Ruffin of Cincinnati and punter Mike Hayes of Akron. Ruffin is an accomplished kicker and might provide stiff competition for incumbent Jeff Reed. Ruffin won the Lou Groza Award in 2000 after setting a Conference USA record by making 26 of 29 field goals. He led the nation in field goals per game (2.36) that season and made 12 in a row during one stretch. He finished his college career by making 12 of 16 field goals in 2001 and 17 of 20 last season. He's considered accurate from 42 yards in, but does not have what scouts consider a strong leg.

Following is the Steelers' complete 2003 rookie free-agent crop:
Player Pos Ht Wt College
Jason Armstead WR 5-9 156 Mississippi
Leonard Scott WR 5-10 191 Tennessee
Brian Robinson WR 6-3 200 Houston
Jeremy Conley WR 6-1 211 Duquesne
Phil Braxton WR 6-3 190 West Virginia
Casey Poppinga TE 6-4 256 Utah State
Dante Brown RB 6-0 211 Memphis State
Jack Fadule OT 6-5 316 Harvard
Deon White OG 6-1 333 Jacksonville State
Jimond Pugh C 6-2 311 Memphis State
Roy Attieh DT 6-1 305 Kent State
David Upchurch DT 6-3 285 West Virginia
Dan Rumishek DE 6-4 284 Michigan
Terrence Robinson LB 6-0 237 Oklahoma State
Dantonio Burnette LB 5-10 235 North Carolina State
Nashville Dyer CB 5-10 182 Kent State
Russell Stuvaints S 6-0 195 Youngstown State
Rashad Faison S 5-9 197 South Carolina
Mike Hayes P 6-3 200 Akron
Jonathan Ruffin K 5-11 174 Cincinnati

Jim Wexell
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