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Steelers meet with free agent WR Lelie

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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009
 

Unrestricted free agent Ashley Lelie, among the top deep receiving threats in the NFL, met with Steelers officials Monday and could sign with the team, agent Peter Schaffer said.

"He had a great visit. The Steelers and I are going to continue to have open dialogue," Schaffer said. "I think there's some mutual interest, and we're going to keep discussing it."

A former first-round draft pick by Denver, Lelie's play experienced a sharp decline after being traded to Atlanta in 2006. Lelie demanded a trade after Denver acquired receiver Javon Walker.

From 2002-05 with the Broncos, Lelie (6-foot-3, 195 pounds) had 168 receptions and 12 touchdowns, with an impressive one-fourth of his catches — 42 — longer than 25 yards. His best season in 2004 produced 54 catches for 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns.

In seven pro seasons, Lelie, 29, a tall, rangy receiver with sprinter's speed, has averaged 17.3 yards per catch.

However, during the past three seasons with Atlanta, San Francisco and Oakland, Lelie had a total of 49 catches and three TDs. He missed the last four games in 2008 with Oakland because of a calf injury.

Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said the Steelers are seeking a replacement for Nate Washington, who was prominent in three-wide receiver sets, and that recent third-round draft pick Mike Wallace will compete for the job.

"We'll just throw him in the mix and the best ones will come out," Arians said of Wallace. "He's a very capable player for that."

Wallace will have to beat out 2008 second-round draft pick Limas Sweed, who will also compete at No. 3 receiver. Neither player has Lelie's track record for making big plays against NFL defenses.

"It was a very productive day for Ashley," Schaffer said. "The Steelers, I think, came away with the same opinion, and we're going to keep an open line of communication."

Rooney wins writers' award

The Professional Football Writers Association of America honored Steelers owner Dan Rooney with its Horrigan Award yesterday, given to the person (not a player or team public relations staffer) who helped the media best do their job last season.

He was joined by Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner (Good Guy Award), Tampa Bay kicker Matt Bryant (Halas Award), the Arizona media relations staff (Rozelle Award) and Sports Illustrated writer Peter King (McCann Award) as honorees.

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