7 who made a difference

Free agency began in 1993, and while the Steelers have never been a team to rush to sign players right out of the gate, they definitely have found their share who have contributed to the success of the organization, including several who helped bring a few more Lombardi Trophies to Pittsburgh.

So, with free agency set to begin, it's time to take a look at some key free agent signings in Steelers history.

(Listed in alphabetical order)

  • Ryan Clark – Free Safety

The departure of one often times opens the door for another and that is what happened with the signing of Ryan Clark. Chris Hope departed after the 2005 season with a Super Bowl ring, and Clark was signed to take his spot at free safety in 2006.

Clark, who was an undrafted rookie in 2002 when he signed with the New York Giants, went on to start for the Washington Redskins in 2004-05, before signing with the Steelers. Once in Pittsburgh and teamed with strong safety Troy Polamalu his career flourished, finishing his career in Pittsburgh with 12 interceptions, six fumble recoveries, three forced fumbles, and two sacks.

  • James Farrior – Inside Linebacker

Farrior played 10 seasons for the Steelers after signing as a free agent in 2001 from the New York Jets. The Jets former No. 1 draft pick played in 154 games in Pittsburgh, with 30 sacks and 1,078 tackles.  

Farrior was a key component in the Steelers run to Super Bowl XL, in particular his performance against the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Divisional playoffs when he recorded 10 tackles and 2.5 sacks.

  • Kevin Greene – Outside Linebacker

Kevin Greene was the second free agent ever signed by the Steelers, making the move from the Los Angeles Rams in 1993. In his three seasons with the Steelers he had 35.5 sacks and two Pro Bowl selections and was named AFC Linebacker of the Year by the NFLPA in 1994.

Greene, who left after the 1995 season, was voted in as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2016. Signing a future Hall of Famer as a free agent definitely ranks as a good move. 

  • Jeff Hartings – Center

The center position is one steeped in tradition in Pittsburgh, with Hall of Famers Mike Webster and Dermontti Dawson setting the standard. So when Jeff Hartings signed with the Steelers in 2001 from the Detroit Lions, the pressure was on for him to live up to the standard. 

Hartings, a former No. 1 pick of the Lions who had only played guard, had blocked for a Pro Bowl running back in Detroit in Barry Sanders. When he came to Pittsburgh he moved to center and blocked for soon to be Hall of Fame inductee Jerome Bettis. And he did it in a way that would make his predecessors proud.

  • Mike Mitchell – Safety

Mike Mitchell signed with the Steelers in 2014, and has started every game since he arrived in Pittsburgh. Mitchell, a former second-round pick of Oakland, played four seasons with the Raiders and one with the Carolina Panthers before coming to the Steelers.

Mitchell has become known for his hard-hitting, aggressive style of play, something reminiscent of the Steelers' of the 1970s. In his three seasons with the Steelers he has 228 total tackles, four interceptions, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries, and the numbers will continue to grow in 2017.

  • Kimo von Oelhoffen – Nose Tackle/Defensive End

When Kimo von Oelhoffen signed with the Steelers in 2000, he arrived as a nose tackle. After one season he was switched to defensive end, where his impact was felt immediately. He played six seasons with the Steelers, including 2005 when the Steelers won Super Bowl XL.

He started 94 of the 95 games he played for the Steelers, finishing his time in Pittsburgh with 229 tackles, 171 of them solo stops. He also had 20.5 sacks, six fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles with the Steelers.

  • DeAngelo Williams – Running Back

On the day DeAngelo Williams signed with the Steelers back in March, 2015, Steelers Nation was in a frenzy of excitement. At the time, though, it wasn't because of Williams. Almost the same time Williams' signing was announced, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger signed a new five-year contract, and the excitement level was at a fever pitch.

It didn't take long though, for Williams' signing to bring excitement. He was brought in to add depth at the running back position, but due to suspensions and injuries to Le'Veon Bell, he did a whole lot more. In two seasons he started 14 games, carried the ball 298 times for 1,250 yards and 15 touchdowns, and had 58 receptions for 485 yards and two touchdowns. Williams, who will become a free agent, gave the Steelers ground game it needed, and his impact was greater than many might have realized on that busy March afternoon in 2015.

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