By Mike Bires
Photo: David Hague – Inside Pittsburgh Sports
PITTSBURGH _ Just two days before the 2009 season opener, the Steelers found time to sign one more of their players entering the last year of his contract. The lucky guy is center Justin Hartwig.
Hartwig, who came to Pittsburgh last year as an unrestricted free agent, agreed to a four-year deal worth $10 million with a $2.1 million signing bonus. He was due to make $1.750 million this season.
Hartwig, an eighth-year pro, started all 19 games with the Steelers last year, playoffs included.
A native of Mankato, Minn., who played college football at the University of Kansas, Hartwig originally entered the NFL as the Tennessee Titans’ sixth-round pick in the 2002 draft. He played four years in Tennessee and then two with the Carolina Panthers.
Hartwig has made 79 career starts in the NFL.
Other starters in the last year of their contracts are running back Willie Parker, tackle Willie Colon, nose tackle Casey Hampton and free safety Ryan Clark.
NO DEAL FOR REED
Meanwhile, kicker Jeff Reed rejected an offer he received recently from the Steelers. Apparently, Reed and his agent felt the offer was too low.
“I got the offer and I turned it down, so move on,” said Reed, an eighth-year pro who’s second on the Steelers’ all-time scoring chart with 733 points.
“I’m not mad at the organization,” added Reed, who’s also on the final year of his existing deal. “We’re on good terms. But just don’t want to talk about money. That’s not as important to me as Thursday night.”
On Thursday, the Steelers open their Super Bowl defense against Tennessee. Reed is being paid $1.375 million this year.
FOX EXCITED ABOUT STARTING ROLE
As reported Monday in Inside Pittsburgh Sports, Keyaron Fox will start at inside linebacker against the Titans in place of Lawrence Timmons.
Penciled in as the replacement for five-year starter Larry Foote shortly after the 2008 season ended, Timmons is out with a high ankle sprain. He suffered the injury in the Aug. 29 preseason game against the Buffalo Bills.
“It’s disappointing because of all the hard work I put in,” said Timmons, the Steelers’ No. 1 pick in the 2007 draft. “But that’s life.”
On the other hand, Fox is fired up for just his fifth pro start and his first since the ’06 season when he played for the Kansas City Chiefs.
“The adrenalin will be pumping and emotions will be flowing,” Fox said. “But I feel god about chances of going in there and getting the job done.”
WHO WILL BE DE-ACTIVATED?
Beside Timmons, here’s a guess on which six other players won’t get “a hat” Thursday night: Guard Kraig Urbik, wide receiver Shaun McDonald, tackle Tony Hills, defensive end Nick Eason, linebacker Patrick Bailey and cornerback Joe Burnett.
Dennis Dixon will be third-team quarterback.
Foster, who’s listed as the back-up left guard and back-up right tackle, said Tuesday that he will dress.
Likewise, rookie defensive end Ziggy Hood, the Steelers’ first-round draft pick, said he expects to play on special teams.