Steelers announce rookie free agents

The Steelers added 13 free agents after the draft, and the most recognizable name of the group might be Penn State safety Yaacov Yisrael, a team captain and second-team All-Big Ten player last season.

Yisrael started all 12 games as a senior and led Penn State with 57 solo tackles. He was 10th in the conference with 93 total tackles and also intercepted three passes and blocked a punt.

A native of Palatine, Ill., Yisrael (5-11, 198) missed the 2002 season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Janssen Patton (5-11, 191) of Bowling Green is also a free safety. The son for former Atlanta Falcons running back Ricky Patton, Janssen was a four-year starter at cornerback for Bowling Green and was a first-team All-MAC selection last season, when he led the conference with seven interceptions.

Josh Parrish (6-6, 337) is the biggest player of the group. A guard, Parrish was a three-year starter at left tackle for Washington State before moving to left guard last season. He was the only offensive lineman signed by the Steelers after the draft.

Huey Whittaker (6-4 1/4, 234) is a huge wide receiver from South Florida. He was the team's leading receiver in 2001 with 52 catches, but was slowed in 2002 by a knee injury and caught 26 passes. Whittaker made nine starts last season and caught 39 passes for 516 yards and two touchdowns. He has a 37-inch vertical leap and could project to tight end.

The Steelers also signed wide receivers Zamir Cobb (5-11, 180) of Temple and Glenn Martinez (6-2, 182) of Saginaw Valley State.

Cobb was Temple's leading receiver last season with 74 catches for 866 yards and five touchdowns. Against Pitt, Cobb caught nine passes for 97 yards.

Martinez caught 132 career passes in Division II. As a junior, he had 123 receiving yards and two touchdowns in a game at IUP. As a senior, he caught 66 passes for 1,130 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Robert Blizzard (6-4, 265) of North Carolina is the only tight end among the undrafted free agents. Blizzard was a starter at Kentucky before transferring to North Carolina, where he caught 48 passes the last two seasons.

Helping the backfield will be halfback Willie Parker (5-10, 208) of North Carolina and fullback Darryl Kennedy (5-10, 208) of Syracuse. Parker played in 40 games and rushed for 1,172 career yards. Kennedy, who bounced from fullback to safety to quarterback and back to fullback in his two years at Syracuse, was the team's top tackler on special teams and rushed for 30 yards last season.

Allen Augustin (6-1, 225) was a walk-on at Florida State before earning a scholarship and eventually a starting job at outside linebacker. He started all 13 games last season and made 83 tackles with four sacks. Augustin is small but is considered a smart overachiever with good coverage skills.

The Steelers added two other linebackers: Nick McNeil (6-2, 244) of Western Carolina and Dedrick Roper (6-2, 256) of Northwood.

McNeil led the Division 1-AA Catamounts with 20 tackles for loss. He also had 19 career sacks. Roper, a defensive end at Division II Northwood, led his conference with 19 tackles for loss and was named second team All-America by the Don Hanson Gazette.

Brandon Calton (6-2, 291) played nose tackle at Division I-AA East Tennessee State and started the last 41 games. Last season he was fourth on the team with 75 tackles and second with 15.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. Calton reportedly ran the 40 in 4.8 seconds and set a team record with a combined lift of 1,970 pounds (squat, power clean, incline and bench presses).

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