The Pittsburgh Steelers were set to host free agent linebacker Tully Banta-Cain on Wednesday but according to ESPN.com and the Boston Globe, Banta-Cain signed a contract Tuesday afternoon with the San Francisco 49ers.
Meanwhile, the Steelers signed restricted free agent punter Andy Lee to an offer sheet Tuesday afternoon. The 49ers have seven days to match the offer to the former Pitt punter or they'll receive a sixth-round draft pick from the Steelers as compensation.
The 24-year-old Lee averaged 44.8 yards per punt last season, ranking seventh in the NFL. The Steelers would like to replace aging punter Chris Gardocki, who averaged 41.3 yards per kick last season and slipped to 30th in the NFL.
The 26-year-old Banta-Cain recorded 5.5 sacks last season in New England. He was receiving interest from three teams.
"Quite honestly, from those three, you can't go wrong," Banta-Cain's agent James Simms said of the Steelers, 49ers and St. Louis Rams.
"Those three teams have a great history and that's something that is important to him, especially when you look where he's coming from."
A defensive end in college at California, Banta-Cain was converted to linebacker by the Patriots, with whom he won two Super Bowl rings.
Banta-Cain is considered by scouts to be a good pass rusher, but lacking against the run. Some of that is because, as one scout put it, "he makes a lot of mental mistakes."
But the Steelers may be in the market for a pass rusher, even a situational one.
After releasing Porter last Thursday in a salary cap-related move, the Steelers have just three outside linebackers on their roster with NFL experience – Clark Haggans, James Harrison and Arnold Harrison. Haggans is the team's starter at left outside linebacker, while James Harrison is currently penciled into Porter's spot on the right side.
Banta-Cain would've provided the Steelers with some insurance and perhaps challenged James Harrison for a starting spot. He also excelled on special teams during his career with the Patriots, making 55 tackles on teams in 51 career games.
Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.