D-Day for Gildon

The Steelers will release all-time sack leader Jason Gildon today, ending his career with the team. <br><br> Prior to this year's draft, the Steelers gave the 10-year veterans and two-time Pro Bowler permission to seek a trade. But with Gildon obviously not part of the Steelers' plans, no team made an offer for his services, instead choosing to wait for his release.

The Steelers made it clear Gildon would not be back when the 2003 season ended. Though no one in the organization would talk about it, Gildon stormed out of his season-ended meeting with head coach Bill Cowher without speaking to reporters and was the only player under contract not invited to minicamp.

Early in the free agent period, the Steelers brought in outside linebacker Marcus Washington for a visit and spoke to the agent Carlos Emmons. The Steelers eventually reached a deal with Clark Haggans, who had been Gildon's backup the past four seasons for $10 million over four seasons.

Gildon, who turns 32 in July, was to count $4.95 million on the Steelers' salary cap this season, but will instead count just $1.3 million. By releasing him after June 1, the Steelers are able to spread Gildon's remaining signing bonus over the 2004 and 2005 seasons. That will save the team $3.65 million on this year's salary cap and $1 million next season.

Gildon, who had three years remaining on his contract, passed L.C. Greenwood last season to become the team's all-time sack leader. He leaves the Steelers with 77 career sacks, including six last season, the second-best total on the team.

But with the Steelers just barely under the 2004 salary cap of $80.6 million, they needed to free up enough cap space to sign the rookie draft class.

Gildon joined the Steelers in 1994 as a third-round draft choice. He played two seasons behind Kevin Greene, moving into the starting lineup in 1996. Gildon's best season came in 2000, when he recorded 89 tackles, 13.5 sacks, forced five fumbles and recovered four.

With Gildon's departure, running back Jerome Bettis, who joined the Steelers in a draft-day trade in 1996, has the longest tenure with the team.

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