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Steelers stay true to form in first week of NFL free agency

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a tradition of re-signing their own free agents and making it a priority. During the first week of NFL free agency, the Steelers have prioritized their signings based on positional needs and have stayed true to form. As for outside free agents, the Steelers have signed players that could compliment the team in areas where depth is an issue.

Al Woods #65 of the Pittsburgh Steelers pressures Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals during the game on December 15, 2013 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Al Woods #65 of the Pittsburgh Steelers pressures Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals during the game on December 15, 2013 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Justin K Aller/Getty Images North America
The Pittsburgh Steelers enter free agency period by keeping on task
The Pittsburgh Steelers enter free agency period by keeping on taskJared Wickerham/Getty Images

Safety Will Allen, offensive lineman Cody Wallace and long snapper Greg Warren have been re-signed from the Steelers roster, securing them for the 2014 season. The Steelers have also reached out and brought in defensive tackle Cam Thomas and safety Mike Mitchell.

Allen signed a one-year contract to remain with the team. Following a two year stint (2010-12) with Pittsburgh, Allen signed with the Dallas Cowboys. After being waived by Dallas during the 2013 NFL Season, Allen returned to Pittsburgh in week six and contributed by adding an interception in week 11 against the Detroit Lions and 34 tackles (25 solo), bolstering a struggling defensive backfield.

Wallace played in nine games during the 2013 season at guard and center. His first career start was during week 14 against the Miami Dolphins where he filled in for an injured Fernando Velasco. Wallace played the last two games of the season as the starting center. His new three-year contract should add depth to an improving Steelers offensive line. "The Rooneys really care about the team," said Wallace earlier this week, "and you see them around the building all the time. (The Steelers are) one of the iconic teams in all of sports. It's awesome to have an opportunity to come back here."

Warren first signed with the Steelers as a rookie free agent in 2005. In the long snapper position, Warren has been a constant with the team, playing in 133 regular season and nine postseason games. "To be able to spend my entire career with one of the best organizations in professional sports is special," said Warren. "It's something you can't just find anywhere and guys should appreciate it when we get the opportunity."

The Steelers signed Thomas, a 6-foot-4-inch defensive tackle, to a two-year contract to add depth to the defensive line following the exit of Ziggy Hood and Al Woods to free agency. Thomas was a fifth-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft out of North Carolina (Tarheels) and battled to the role of starter in 2011 with the San Diego Chargers. He spent two seasons leading the Chargers' defensive line. In 2013, everything changed after the Cincinnati Bengals were able to put up big rushing numbers against San Diego in week 13. Sean Lassimore took over at nose tackle and Thomas saw less playing time, which set him up as a prime free agent to pick up off the wire.

Mitchell (6-foot, 216 pounds) was signed as the replacement for the departed Ryan Clark. A safety from Ohio University, Mitchell was selected in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft (47th overall). He spent four seasons with the Raiders who did little to utilize his skills due to heavy depth at the position. In 2013, the Carolina Panthers offered him a one-year contract. With the Panthers, Mitchell proved his talent by recording 66 tackles, 3.5 sacks, eight passes defensed, two forced fumbles and four interceptions.

"I want to play for somebody who's going to be a contender," Mitchell told USA Today prior to the Steelers signing him, "and I want to be on a team that sees me as an integral piece, not just a little fill-in. I want to be a staple in someone's defense, because I think I can become that type of player." The Steelers signed him to do just that - start and prove himself. "This is definitely a life-changing experience," admitted Mitchell.

This is one of the best opportunities to play for one of the most storied franchises in all of sports, but definitely in the game of professional football...It's the best of the best. This program...This is the top. For (the Steelers) to want me and want to bring me in here and let me play for their franchise, I felt like I wanted it more than they did, and it's a fantastic organization to be playing for.

Other roster moves

  • Cornerback Ike Taylor, who was entering the last year of his contract with the Steelers, agreed to a cut in salary to remain with the team - hoping to finish his career in Pittsburgh. "It would have killed me not to stay here," said Taylor. "Soulfully it would have killed me...Taking a pay cut wasn't the issue." Taylor admitted that the Steelers offered enough through his years with the team that he didn't feel like "the money part" was a major issue.
  • On Tuesday, the Steelers released linebacker LaMarr Woodley with a post-June 1 designation. Woodley has signed a two-year contract with the Oakland Raiders.
  • Defensive end Ziggy Hood reportedly signed a four-year deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
  • Running back Jonathan Dwyer signed a one-year contract with the Arizona Cardinals.
  • Tight end/fullback David Johnson signed a two-year deal with the San Diego Chargers.
  • Defensive end Al Woods signed a multi-year deal with the Tennessee Titans.