Chris Hoke - Hoke has played in all but 4 games since 2004. And with that comes the experience and familiarity with a defense that the Steelers need in that position. But Craig, isn’t Casey Hampton healthy and still playing for the Steelers? True, Hampton is back for his 11th season. But that’s just hit – 33 years old and 325 lbs (he’s probably more). At NT, that body has had to take a ton of punishment trying to explode with all that weight on the snap of the ball. Hoke is no spring chicken either, but he does a really nice job plugging up the running lanes and taking an extra o-lineman with him in the process. This is a good stop gap move for the Steelers just in case either one of these guys needs some extended rest. It’s only a one year deal, and I look for the Steelers to add either via free agency or draft next season to find Hampton’s (and Hoke’s) replacement.
Daniel Sepulveda - He’s walking, now he’s not. It appeared at first that the Steelers were going to let Danny Boy walk this time into the IR sunset, but someone in the FO had a change of heart. The Steelers have two (I’m pretty sure two) other punters currently on the roster during camp. Wouldn’t either one of those do? Danny is more injury prone than the guy who’s prescribed to wear bubble wrap as ‘bumpers.’ I don’t know why the Steelers signed him on. The terms have not been disclosed, but it better be for only a year. I’m tired of him flirting with us fans with his good punting skills and then ditch us for the season when he hurts his ankle… again.
Mewelde Moore - Moore just signed a contract to return. Terms, undisclosed. This slams the door on Tikki ‘You Know You Want Me’ Barber indefinitely. After Baron Batch’s stellar day yesterday in camp and the signing of Moore, the Steelers will find their third down back between those two. I just hope it’s Batch because I love that guy already. As for Moore, he needs to find a way to pick up the blitz better and root those feet into the ground or Ben’s going to be looking for more life insurance this season.
Dennis Dixon - I don’t blame Dennis for wanting a starting job somewhere, but ya gotsta earn that right son. Three seasons and hardly anything to show for but a TD and 2 INT’s in three starts. He is injury prone as he’s shone that the last two seasons (thank God for dependable Charlie). Not sure what chops he has to just walk away at first and let your agent try and convince other teams that he is starting material – especially after the QB smorgasbord around the league the past five days. Wrong time to be walking away, my friend. I think he realized that and realized his only hopes of playing any football and winning a ring are with the Steelers. Dixon got a one year deal (terms not yet.. blah blah blah you get it). Do the Steelers need Dixon as a back up? Not if Ben, Charlie and Byron all stay healthy this season.
Well that’s eight players who have re-signed with the Steelers. Some good, much of it ‘meh.’ I think the Steelers could have let some of these guys walk and saved some money to sign other FA’s or RFA’s – as we’ll see in Part 2 of Free Agency Grades on Wednesday (or maybe even tonight!) So what’s the final grade for current team free agents?