Adding Another Brick With Blount

The Steelers are making some chicken salad out of what looked to be a nothing free-agent season. RB LeGarrette Blount is the latest addition.

PITTSBURGH -- Back on February 12, when GM Kevin Colbert addressed the combine-attending media members about his upcoming combine attendance, Steelers owner Dan Rooney joined a lunch table of reporters and was asked if his bean counters were hard at work chipping into a payroll that was some $16 million over the looming cap deadline.

"No," Rooney said. "They're not worried at all."

He paused, chuckled, and said, "I wish they were, though; just a little."

The bean counters were right and proved it yesterday by using one of their last extra dollars to sign their fourth veteran free agent, RB LeGarrette Blount, to a two-year contract for almost $4 million.

The deal, according to Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post, includes a $950,000 signing bonus and a $150,000 bonus if Blount rushes for 800 yards this season.

The signing of Blount leaves the Steelers with only pocket change at this point, but the team can still find extra money by restructuring the contract of Lawrence Timmons, extending the contract of Ben Roethlisberger, and/or re-doing the one-year transition tag tender signed by Jason Worilds.

On June 2, the Steelers will realize another $8 million from the release of LaMarr Woodley, but they'll only be able to use approximately $1.5 million of that sum, the bulk of which will provide money for the draft class, players 52 and 53, the practice squad, and an in-season emergency fund.

For a team that was so far over the cap only six weeks ago, the free-agent season can now be termed a success.

Blount, 27, is a 6-0 3/8, 250-pound bruising power back who rushed for 772 yards and 7 touchdowns last season with the New England Patriots.

In the playoffs against the Indianapolis Colts, Blount powered his way for 166 yards and 4 touchdowns on 24 carries.

Blount will provide the veteran experience the Steelers sought as a reserve for Le'Veon Bell. In fact, Mike Tomlin reportedly called Blount last week to convince him to eventually sign with the Steelers over the Patriots and Baltimore Ravens.

Blount, of course, carried baggage into the league after he was suspended twice by his former coach at Oregon for violating team rules during and after his school-record 17-touchdown (and 1,002-yard) junior season. And at the start of his senior season he punched a taunting Boise State player in the face and drew a season-long suspension, which ended eight games later following a public apology published in a local newspaper.

Blount was signed after the draft by the Tennessee Titans, who put him on their 53-man roster only to cut him in order to pick up Steelers castoff Patrick Bailey.

Blount was claimed by Tampa Bay, where he became only the second undrafted player to ever rush for over 1,000 yards in his rookie season. In his four-year NFL career, Blount has rushed for 2,711 yards (4.7 avg.), caught 23 passes for 202 yards (8.8), and returned 17 kickoffs for 494 yards (29.1).

The addition of Blount, along with free safety Mike Mitchell, defensive lineman Cam Thomas and wide receiver Lance Moore, leaves the Steelers shy only at defensive end -- where last year's starter Brett Keisel awaits an offer -- and potentially at offensive tackle. However, the addition of line coach Mike Munchak could provide answers there with the talent on hand.

So a team that entered the off-season with many worries now appears to be rounding into shape.

Then again, the bean counters knew it all along.

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