With the 2014 free agency signing period set to begin in less than a month, I figured we would run a series that takes a look at the Pittsburgh Steelers free agent signings dating back to 2000, when Kevin Colbert became the general manager.
These free agent signing recaps will be limited to only free agents from other teams that were signed prior to June 1st of that offseason as those are the ones that count when determining whether or not a team a team receives compensatory draft picks.
As you well know, the Steelers aren’t usually big players in free agency, but in 2000, they signed four free agents. Below is a quick recap of those signings and keep in mind that the salary cap that season was $62.172 million.
Kimo von Oelhoffen – February 15, 2000 – Kimo von Oelhoffen was the first of four unrestricted free agents signed in 2000 by the Steelers as he agreed to a four-year, $10 million contract. The former Cincinnati Bengals defensive lineman initially played nose tackle for the Steelers, but later moved to defensive end once Casey Hampton became the starter in 2001, his rookie season. von Oelhoffen would go on to play six seasons in Pittsburgh.
Chris Sullivan – February 22, 2000 – With von Oelhoffen in the fold, the Steelers then signed New England Patriots free agent defensive end Chris Sullivan to a three-year, $4.63 million contract. While he played in 15 games for the Steelers that season, Sullivan only started two of them and he barely cracked the stat sheet. After breaking his left wrist during training camp in 2001, Sullivan was placed on the team’s injured reserve list and ultimately released with an injury settlement. He wound up signing back with the Patriots later that season.
Rich Tylski– February 28, 2000 – The Steelers again dipped into the free agent pool in late February as they signed Jacksonville Jaguars free agent guard Rich Tylski to a three-year, $3.24 million contract. Tylski was to compete with Brenden Stai at right guard, but it never got that far as the Steelers released the latter just a few weeks later after failing to find a team to trade for him. Stai curiously enough wound up signing with the Jaguars following his release. Tylski played just two seasons in Pittsburgh and started 25 games at right guard. He missed six games in 2001 due to ankle and rib injuries and was released in April of 2002 after the Steelers drafted Kendall Simmons in the first-round of the 2002 NFL Draft out of Auburn.
Kent Graham – February 28, 2000 – on the same day that Tylski was signed, the Steelers also signed veteran New York Giants free agent quarterback to a three-year, $5.1 million contract. Graham was signed to compete with Kordell Stewart. After winning the starting job in training camp, Graham started the first three games of the 2000 season and the Steelers lost all three of them. He suffered a hip injury in the third game and it sidelined for a few weeks as a result. Once healthy, he started two more games before Stewart took back over as the starter for good. Graham wound up being cut the following September and the Steelers took a dead money hit as a result even though the veteran was willing to take a cut in pay to stay. In his one season in Pittsburgh Graham was 66-of-148 passing for 878 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Many will ask why safety Brent Alexander is not on this list. He was a street free agent and not an unrestricted free agent as he was released in April by the Carolina Panthers. The Steelers signed him in May to a two-year, $1.29 million contract.