Hampton talks heat up

PITTSBURGH – The Steelers talked to Casey Hampton before Saturday night's game and sources now believe the team will sign the Pro Bowl nose tackle to a contract extension within the next couple of days.

Hampton said Saturday night he wasn't surprised that the Steelers sat him down to talk about an extension before the game against the Miami Dolphins.

Hampton is heading into the final year of his contract. The 2001 first-round pick has his weight down and has proven that the injured knee, which kept him out of 10 games last season, is sound. Those two facts prevented the Steelers from getting serious with Hampton up until this point.

"It's the last year of my deal, so obviously they want to get something done," Hampton said. "They don't want me on the free-agent market or anything like that."

Since the Steelers won't negotiate during the regular season, the sides must cut a deal prior to the Sept. 11 opener, otherwise Hampton could test the free-agent market next March. However, Hampton doesn't see that as being the case.

"This is where I want to be at, so there isn't a secret about that," he said.

The Steelers are also talking with the rest of their potential 2006 free agents. The most important might be free safety Chris Hope, who turns 25 in a month and is now becoming comfortable at the dawn of his second season as a starter.

"If that's something they're interested in doing, I would definitely be interested in being a Steeler for as long as I can," Hope said. "Being that most of our team on defense is young, we have an opportunity to be good if we stay healthy and continue to grow together. But business is business."

Is Hope looking for big money?

"Oh yeah," he said. "Hopefully, if I have a season like I did last year, and make a couple more picks that I know I can make, anything can happen."

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