Bailey gone; Zereoue released

<b>PITTSBURGH -- </b> The Steelers did some housekeeping Thursday as a busy week of free agency winds down. <br><br>The team announced it has not matched the offer sheet restricted free agent Rodney Bailey signed last week with the New England Patriots. The Steelers will instead receive the Patriots' sixth-round draft pick, giving the team three picks in this year's sixth round.

The Steelers had traded Troy Edwards to the St. Louis Rams before the 2002 season for a sixth-round pick this year.

The Steelers also released running backs Amos Zereoue and Dee Brown.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment of a disappointing season, Zereoue rushed for 432 yards pn 129 carries (3.3 average) after being handed the starting job last August by Coach Bill Cowher.

Zereoue and his $2.2 million salary for the 2004 season were deemed expendable after the Steelers signed free-agent running back Duce Staley on Wednesday. The Steelers saved $1.663 million by releasing the five-year veteran from West Virginia University.

Perhaps Brown was deemed expendable as well; perhaps Brown wouldn't give up his number, 22, for Staley. Regardless, Brown dressed for only two games after signing with the Steelers on Dec. 10 last season as a replacement for injured running back Verron Haynes.

Bailey, 24, had signed a one-year, $1.3 million offer sheet with the Patriots last week. The Steelers' response was to sign free-agent defensive lineman Travis Kirschke (pronounced KIRSH-kee), who led San Francisco linemen last season with 46 tackles.

Kirschke (6-3, 286), is a seven-year veteran out of UCLA who spent his first six seasons with the Detroit Lions, where he started 10 games. Kirschke started 15 games last season for the 49ers.

Bailey, a back-up defensive end, had nine total tackles last season with two sacks. The totals represented a significant decline from the 2002 season when Bailey made 18 tackles with 5.5 sacks.

In his three-year career, Bailey made 39 total tackles with 9.5 sacks.

The Steelers now own the 12th, 29th and 32nd picks in the sixth round.

In addition to signing Staley and Kirschke this week, the Steelers signed punter Chris Gardocki.

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