Steelers tweak roster, add Issa

The Pittsburgh Steelers added a defensive lineman, signing Jabari Issa today. Drafted in 2000 in the sixth round by the Arizona Cardinals, Issa projected as a classic end in a 3-4 scheme. The Houston Texans picked him in the expansion draft with that in mind, but later waived him.

While Jabari Issa's size and speed would be well suited to the Pittsburgh Steelers defensive scheme, Issa struggled at defensive end in college when the Washington Huskies switched to the 3-4 for the 2000 campaign. Before the schematic switch, Issa was a terror. As a junior end and tackle in the 4-3, Issa registered 41 tackles with 12 for a loss, and 8 sacks.

The signing of Issa by the Steelers at this point in the off-season is curious. Does Pittsburgh really need more camp bodies?

Even with the recent release of John Fiala, the Steelers are still pressed up against the cap. The signing of Issa signals the pending salary reduction of TE Mark Bruener, who's Dale Lolley recently reported would accept the pay cut given the few options available in the market at this point in the off-season.

The Steelers may also be signaling continuing concerns about the health of DE Kimo Von Oelhoffen. Von Oelhoffen, starting his 10th year in the NFL, was hampered by injuries last season. He endured problems with his calf, foot and groin. In January, he underwent surgery to repair his shoulder. Despite the injuries, Von Oelhoffen did start every game in 2002.

The addition of Issa will provide the Steelers some insurance if Von Oelhoffen has trouble staying healthy.

The Steelers may also seriously consider Brett Keisel or Rodney Bailey for the starting RDE position. Bailey has been active during the off-season to expand his role from rushing the passer in the dime. Kiesel caught Bill Cowher's eye on special teams in 2002 and looks to be in the mold of Aaron Smith, the very productive LDE.

The Steelers could carry Issa on the final roster at the expense of either Chris Hoke or Kendrick Clancy.

Jim Russell

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