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Saturday might be alright for signing

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Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2009

It might be a shot in the dark, but it makes enough sense for the Steelers to at least consider the possibility of acquiring one of the NFL's top offensive linemen.

Three-time Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday, who becomes an unrestricted free agent at 12:01 a.m. Friday, wants to join the Steelers. And not necessarily as a center.

"I talked to Jeff after the Super Bowl, and he said if you can get me there, that would be beautiful," said Pittsburgh-based agent Ralph Cindrich. "This is a Rooney-type of guy if ever there was one."

Are the Steelers interested in adding a 10-year veteran who missed four games last season because of injuries• And, if they are interested, can they afford him?

Also, Justin Hartwig started every game at center, as the Steelers won Super Bowl XLIII. Hartwig, who is entering the final year of his contract, doesn't turn 31 until November. Saturday turns 34 in June.

"He's happy to play guard. He started in the league at guard. He told me, 'I'll play anywhere,' " Cindrich said Tuesday.

The Steelers hope to re-sign Chris Kemoeatu, who is regarded as the top free-agent guard. But Kemoeatu likely will test the market.

Cindrich said Saturday compares favorably with another one of his clients, Steelers defensive captain James Farrior, who led the team in tackles and was named to his second Pro Bowl in his 12th season. Farrior is 34.

"I believe that James Farrior is one of the best leaders in the NFL. Jeff Saturday is equal to Farrior. He really controls the whole offensive line, makes every call," Cindrich said. "It's a Farrior-type situation, where age scares teams. Farrior's first four to five years, he didn't get beat up. Jeff is the same way."

As per team policy, Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert won't discuss potential free agents.

One of the league's top centers, Saturday appeared in the Pro Bowl from 2005 through 2007 and is a two-time Pro Bowl alternate (2004, 2008). He was named AP All-NFL twice (2005, 2007).

He has started all 16 games in seven of nine seasons with Indianapolis since becoming a regular. He started 12 games in 2008, missing the first two weeks with a knee injury and weeks 13 and 14 with a calf injury.

During Saturday's absence, the Colts' offensive production fell off. In the 12 games that he started, the Colts averaged 25.1 points, 87.4 yards rushing and quarterback Peyton Manning had a passer rating of 98.1. In the four games that Saturday missed, the Colts averaged 19.0 points, 56.3 yards rushing and Manning had a passer rating of 86.3.

Cindrich said Saturday is choosing to wade into free agency after the Colts made an attempt to re-sign him.

"Unless the market is totally flat, I don't think (he'll return to the Colts)," Cindrich said. "I feel like something could be done, but you never know about the Steelers. They like to pay their own more than somebody else. Jeff came back from injury and played strong. I honestly believe he could make a difference."

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