Done deal: Mahan a Steeler

PITTSBURGH - The Steelers agreed to terms with their first free agent this offseason when center Sean Mahan signed a contract Saturday morning.

Mahan signed a five-year deal averaging just under $3.5 million per year. He'll be paid close to $5 million in the first year of the deal.

According to a Mahan, he could've taken more money elsewhere, but signed with the Steelers because of the opportunity to start at center in an organization with a tradition of success at the position.

Mahan also enjoys a comfort level with Mike Tomlin, who was a member of the Tampa Bay coaching staff during the first three seasons of Mahan's career. He also noted that he's excited to join an organization with the "tradition, success and history of stablity" that the Steelers have enjoyed.

Mahan hopes to replace the retired Jeff Hartings as the Steelers' starting center, a position that's been held on a full-time basis by only four players since 1964.

Mahan's competition will come from Kendall Simmons, who's been a disappointment at right guard for the Steelers. Simmons enters the final year of his contract and the team would like to find out if he's better suited for center.

Chukky Okobi will likely be released, due to his $2 million salary and lack of versatility.

The Steelers plan to look at both Mahan and Simmons at center during the April 20-22 minicamp preceding the draft.

Mahan, who'll turn 27 on May 28, is a 6-foot-3, 301-pounder who's considered a technician with the quickness and agility the Steelers seek at the position.

A fifth-round pick by Tampa Bay out of Notre Dame in 2003, Mahan renewed acquaintances Friday with Steelers coach Tomlin, who was part of the Tampa Bay coaching staff during Mahan's first three seasons in the league.

"He's a great coach. I admire him. I have a lot of respect for him," Mahan said. "I'd be here even if he wasn't here, but it's nice knowing he's here."

Mahan is a native of Jenks, Oklahoma, and was a two-year starter at Notre Dame. He was Notre Dame's most outstanding lineman in 2002.

The Steelers also met Friday with free-agent outside linebacker Colby Bockwoldt, who had hoped to join former BYU teammates Brett Keisel, Chris Hoke and Shaun Nua with the Steelers, but left Friday without reaching an agreement.

Bockwoldt is a 6-1, 237-pounder who'd add depth to the Steelers thin linebacking corps and play on special teams.

New Orleans drafted Bockwoldt out of BYU in 2004 and he started the final seven games of his rookie season at outside linebacker. He started all 16 games for the Saints in 2005 and led the team in tackles, but was cut at the end of the 2006 training camp.

"Anytime a coaching staff leaves the entire coaching staff left you don't have anybody left to fight for you," he said. "That's kind of how the business goes."

Tennessee picked up Bockwoldt off the waiver wire and he played in all 16 games last season, making one start, but the Titans didn't make him a qualifying offer to become a restricted free agent this month.

The 26-year-old has 114 career tackles with two sacks and three fumble recoveries. He said the Titans and 49ers have made him offers.

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