Pittsburgh -- Steelers fans were ready to break into a chorus of "Nothing from nothing leaves nothing" about their team's barren first week of free agency, but along came Friday the 13th.
Late that afternoon the Steelers announced the signing of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to a five-year contract and also signed free-agent running back DeAngelo Williams, a former Pro Bowler who guaranteed, "I've got a LOT of gas left in the tank."
But of course the big news was Roethlisberger, the 33-year-old who plans to lead the team at least through the 2019 season.
"It's kind of hard to contain a smile when you're excited to be at a place like this, to be home, and to be able to be here for my whole career," said Roethlisberger. "I know most of you have heard me for a long time say that this is where I've always wanted to be and where I want to spend my whole career. This has given me an opportunity to do that and I just feel very blessed to have the opportunity to play for such a great franchise, great coaches, great teammates, and the best fans in the world. I'm extremely happy that we got a deal done that's incredibly fair for both sides. We're excited to move forward and get some more Lombardi trophies in the room next door."
Terms of the deal were not announced, but Roethlisberger expounded on calling it "incredibly fair."
"It was an easy deal to get done, from what I heard from my representatives and talking to the Rooneys and Omar (Kahn) and Kevin (Colbert). Easy deals that get done quickly are fair deals."
"I'll just say we're comfortable with where we are with the cap," said President Art Rooney II, "and what we'll be able to do going forward in terms of making sure we're going to stay competitive and be able to sign players."
The Steelers entered the day some $7.2 million under the cap. They spent some of that on a 32-year-old running back, Williams, who's expected to competently replace Le'Veon Bell throughout an early-season suspension, whether it's announced by the league as one game or two.
Williams, 5-9, 215, was a first-round draft pick out of Memphis in 2006 by the Carolina Panthers. He went to the Pro Bowl following the 2009 season and rushed for 843 yards (4.2 avg.) in 2013. He opened last season with 72 yards on 14 carries, but injured his hamstring the next week, and a few weeks later suffered a high ankle sprain. Those injuries cost him six games, and then he broke a finger and missed the final four regular-season games. Williams returned for the playoffs and displayed his old burst in rushing five times for 30 yards as a backup to Jonathan Stewart. Williams was released earlier this week in a cost-cutting move by the Panthers. But he can run, catch, block and fumbled only 12 times in 1,617 career touches.
"I want to come in and help them be productive on offense," said Williams. "Whether that means me coming off the bench, giving the offensive line water, making sure Ben Roethlisberger's towel is dry so he can wipe his hands and throw the ball better -- whatever it takes for us to win a Super Bowl, I'm willing and able to do it."
Of course, winning the Super Bowl is all that matters to Roethlisberger. He turned just about every question, whether it concerned old trade rumors, keeping enough cap room for the team, or the evolving offense under coordinator Todd Haley, into a challenge of winning a Lombardi Trophy.
"I think we've got a good young football team that's got a lot of talent and ability," Roethlisberger said. "Walking over here, I said 'Art is there room in that trophy case for more trophies?' That's got to be our ultimate goal. I trust that coach and the Steelers will put the best football team on the football field, and we're going to give it everything we have."
Roethlisberger was asked if this will be his final contract, and he chuckled.
"Gosh, we just signed it, and I'm just happy right now," he said. "I'm not going to look past this day. People ask me how long do I want to play. Well, if I look till the end I'm missing out on right now, and the right here and right now is a great day to be a Pittsburgh Steeler. I'm just excited for this right now."
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