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Steelers haven't been stingy

| Monday, July 30, 2007

When it comes to paying defensive players, the Steelers put their money where their mouth is.

Since 2005, Steelers management has re-signed safety Troy Polamalu, defensive end Aaron Smith, cornerback Ike Taylor, nose tackle Casey Hampton and backup nose tackle Chris Hoke to contracts totaling $110 million with $39 million in bonus money.

If you include rookie linebackers Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley, the numbers jump to $128 million in contracts and $48.8 million in bonus money.

That's a lot of cash for an organization that has been stereotyped unfairly for pinching pennies.

"I think it gives clout to the cliche that defense wins championships, offense wins games," Polamalu said.

Polamalu signed an extension worth $33 million on the first day of training camp. It's the largest contract in Steelers history.

Polamalu's deal topped the $24.5 million extension signed by Smith during the offseason.

Smith's deal topped the $23.75 million extension signed by Taylor last September.

Taylor's deal topped the $22.8 million extension signed by Hampton in 2005.

The contracts made Polamalu, Smith, Taylor and Hampton the highest paid at their positions in team history.

Hoke's extension is for $6 million and includes a $1.5 million bonus.

Timmons, the No. 15 pick in the draft, signed a five-year deal worth as much as $15 million with a little over $8 million in bonus money.

Woodley, the Steelers' second-round pick, will receive $1.8 million in bonus money.

With new coach Mike Tomlin's reputation as a defensive coach, Steelers management is banking on locking up key players on that side of the ball.

"We've had a good defense for a lot of years," Smith said. "They obviously made it the focus right now to get the defense signed and keep it intact."

The trend started with Hampton when management re-signed him following his fourth season, one year after appearing in his first Pro Bowl.

Next came Taylor, who had been in the league three years and had started only one season when he re-signed.

Taylor's deal was also unusual in NFL circles because it's rare for a player who started only one season to be paid among the elite at his position.

"The front office, they've been doing it for a while," said Taylor, a fourth-round draft pick in 2003. "They've got an eye for talent and character. There are a lot of young, hungry, talented guys on defense."

Polamalu, who was selected in the first round in 2003, received his new deal following three Pro Bowl seasons.

Smith was rewarded following his eighth season.

Of course, with the Steelers re-signing so many defensive players, it raises the question as to what side of the ball that management values more.

You don't have to be six-time Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca to know the answer.

Faneca blew his stack at the team's May minicamp because he couldn't secure a new deal.

Maybe Faneca should play defense.

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