Notebook: Ross signs with Steelers

<b>LATROBE -</b> The Steelers signed outside linebacker Adrian Ross, 29, to a one-year contract.<br><br> The Steelers made the offer just before camp opened, but Ross waited until Saturday to agree, even though the Cincinnati Bengals had made him a recent contract offer after a run of injuries at the position.

Ross, a seven-year veteran, told the The Cincinnati Enquirer "it's too late" for the Bengals, who'd terminated his original contract July 23.

An outside linebacker from Colorado State, Ross explained his decision to the paper by saying "my boys from college are there."

Steelers outside linebackers Joey Porter and Clark Haggans also played at Colorado State. Ross also cited the presence of his former coach, Dick LeBeau, the Steelers' defensive coordinator, as a factor.

Ross was a walk-on at Colorado State and started his last 25 games there. As a senior, he was the starting defensive end opposite Haggans in 1997.

One of Ross' fraternity brothers, Porter was a back-up defensive end that season before taking Ross' place in 1998 and setting a school record with 15 sacks. Haggans left Colorado State as the career sacks leader with 33.

Ross (6-2, 245) signed with the Bengals as an undrafted free agent in 1998. He started the Bengals' first 10 games, but LeBeau scrapped his 3-4 in favor of a 4-3 and Ross was demoted. He's started 34 of 90 games with the Bengals the last six seasons, with a career-high 12 starts last season. Ross also made a career-high 55 tackles last season. He has three career sacks; none last season.

Haggans, the Steelers' left outside linebacker in the 3-4, is currently out with two broken fingers. He's due back for the fourth preseason game. Undrafted rookie Dedrick Roper suffered a hyperextended knee at Saturday's practice to further thin the Steelers' depth at the position.

"The 3-4 is something I really like playing in," Ross told Bengals.com from St. Vincent College late Saturday night. He told the site the Bengals offered more than the Steelers, but Ross was swayed by phone calls Saturday from Porter and LeBeau.

THE ODDS
Courtesy of Millenium.com, here are today's odds on the Steelers: bet 5-4 on winning more than 7.5 games; 25-1 to win the AFC; 40-1 to win the Super Bowl. They are also favored over the Oakland Raiders by three points in the opener at Heinz Field.

The AFC favorites are New England (2-1), Indianapolis (9-2) and Baltimore (5-1). The Super Bowl favorites are New England (9-2) and Philadelphia (6-1).

HUEY SAYS …
Speaking of odds, South Florida is favored to beat visiting Pitt by three points in a college opener next month. Steelers rookie wide receiver Huey Whittaker doesn't think that's a surprise. He was a sophomore starter for South Florida in its 35-26 upset win over host Pitt on Sept. 8, 2001 as 22-point underdogs.

"That was my first pretty big game, my first game in the spotlight and doing good things and catching deep balls," said Whittaker. "Actually it would've been my first 100-yard game but I had a 50-yard touchdown called back. They said somebody blocked somebody in the back, but we couldn't find it on film. I had a pretty good game, 60-some yards."

Whittaker is 6 feet 4, 233 pounds but hasn't shown much during team scrimmages. In fact, none of the young receivers have distinguished themselves yet.

The Steelers normally keep five wide receivers. Last year's veteran pick-up, Freddie Milons, is currently the sixth wide receiver.

"Things are going good, as far as I can see," Whittaker said. "I'm working hard, trying to get through it, see what happens after that."

And what about South Florida? A good team?

"Things are looking good down there. I talked to a couple of the players. It looks like they're into it. They have two quarterbacks. They have the one returning from last year, who was shaky, and they have the back-up, the freshman, who stepped up last year. They should be alright."

QUOTABLE
Lineman-turned-sideline-reporter Craig Wolfley on the up and down play of rookie third-round pick Max Starks:

"His feet are better than I thought. I think his inconsistency is due to his indecisiveness. He's thinking all the way through the play and he's rising up and getting beat low because of that indecisiveness. He's not in the Zen stage yet."

Is Wolfley concerned that Starks may not pan out?

"No. The only person who should be concerned about him now is the guy who's quarterbacking in the fourth quarter of the Detroit game."

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