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Steelers sign former Broncos offensive tackle Harris

| Tuesday, March 15, 2016, 3:36 p.m.
Broncos tackle Ryan Harris celebrates following the AFC Championship Game between Denver and New England on Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016, in Denver.

Over the course of a month late this past season, Ryan Harris twice faced the Steelers.

Tuesday, the offensive tackle joined them.

“Being on the good side of that Terrible Towel now will be fun,” Harris said.

The 10-year veteran arrived at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex early Tuesday and left with a two-year contract worth a reported $3.9 million.

What he apparently didn't leave the South Side with are any assurances he will be a starter this coming season.

“I'll expect to achieve the goals that I set for myself,” Harris said when asked if he expected to be the Steelers' starter at left tackle in 2016. “In years past, that's always worked for me.”

Harris is expected to compete with Alejandro Villanueva for the top spot at left tackle. Former left tackle Kelvin Beachum signed with Jacksonville on Tuesday, according to ESPN and AP reports.

Harris, 31, has started 70 games over nine seasons in the NFL with Denver, Houston and Kansas City, including all 16 last season for the Super Bowl champion Broncos.

“I see myself as a veteran offensive tackle with dozens of starts and a Super Bowl championship ring that can come in and provide both leadership and talent to an already talented and well-led organization,” Harris said.

Harris was a third-round pick out of Notre Dame by Denver in 2007 and played his first four years there before spending 2012-13 in Houston and 2014 in Kansas City.

He was unemployed until late May last year when Denver Pro Bowl tackle Ryan Clady tore an ACL during organized team activities. Harris started the first three games of 2015 at right tackle but moved to the left side after rookie Ty Sambrailo sustained a torn labrum Sept. 27.

How did the first extensive action in Harris' career at left tackle go? “It went extremely smoothly considering how smooth that (Super Bowl) ring is gonna be,” Harris said.

The acquisition of the 6-foot-5, 302-pound Harris also could mean the departure of Mike Adams, the 2012 second-round pick who lost the left tackle job to Beachum in 2013 and missed all of last season with a back injury.

Whoever doesn't start at left tackle likely would serve as the “swing tackle” gameday backup on both sides. A 6-foot-9 former Army Ranger, Villanueva saw first NFL regular-season action in starting the final 10 games of last season.

Villanueva is signed to a league-minimum contract for 2016. Put together, the average annual salaries for Harris and Villanueva wouldn't rank among the top 25 highest-paid NFL left tackles, according to overthecap.com.

“Most importantly at this point of my career, I want to continue to play for championship-caliber teams, teams whose goal it is to win a championship,” Harris said. “And that couldn't be any more clear when you walk the hallways of this organization.”

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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