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Steelers Contract Look-Back: Sean Mahan 2007 Signing

Continuing on with my look back at lucrative contracts signed by Pittsburgh Steelers over the course of the last 15 years, today I will recall for you the signing of center Sean Mahan back in 2007.

If we are to consider the 2002 signing of linebacker James Farrior by the Steelers as probably the best free agent move that general manager Kevin Colbert has made so far during his time in Pittsburgh, then the signing of Mahan in 2007 can probably be considered his worst.

After starting center Jeff Hartings decided to retire following the 2006 season due to knee issues, the team was left with veteran Chukky Okobi and second-year player Marvin Philip as available replacements. Due to the uneasiness at the position, the Steelers decided to sign Mahan to a five-year, $17 million contract near the start of the 2007 free agent signing period. Mahan, who was originally drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the fifth-round of the 2003 NFL Draft out of Notre Dame, had started 36 games up until that point. He was given a $4 million signing bonus as part of that deal and expected to be the Steelers next great starting center for several years.

The Steelers were so confident that Mahan would be their next longtime center that offseason that they ultimately released Okobi and his $2.2 million salary prior to the start of the regular season as they went with the more inexpensive Philip as their backup at the position. While Mahan did start all 16 regular season games during the 2007 season, his play was abysmal at best.

Knowing then that Mahan wasn’t the player they thought he would be, the Steelers proceeded to sign veteran free agent Justin Hartwig during the 2008 signing period. While Mahan was allowed to compete against Hartwig during that year’s training camp and preseason games, he was ultimately traded back to Buccaneers for a seventh-round selection in the 2009 NFL Draft just prior to the start of the 2008 regular season. Being as that move happened after June 1st, the Steelers incurred a dead money hit against their 2008 salary cap of $800,000 and another dead money hit in 2009 of $2.4 million.

In case you’re curious about what ultimately happened with that 2009 seventh-round draft pick the Steelers received from the Buccaneers, it was used to select former Penn State center A.Q. Shipley. The team ultimately found their longtime starter to replace Hartwig in 2010 when they selected Maurkice Pouncey in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft out of Florida.

As for Mahan, he dressed for 21 more games with the Buccaneers with 4 starts over the course of the 2008 and 2009 seasons after being traded by the Steelers.

Below is the basic breakdown of the original deal Mahan signed in 2007.

YEAR BASE SALARY SIGNING BONUS PRORATED ROSTER BONUS NLTBE BASE CAP CHARGE
2007 $650,000.00 $800,000.00 $0 $0 $1,450,000.00
2008 $2,175,000.00 $800,000.00 $0 $0 $2,975,000.00
2009 $3,175,000.00 $800,000.00 $0 $0 $3,975,000.00
2010 $3,500,000.00 $800,000.00 $0 $0 $4,300,000.00
2011 $3,500,000.00 $800,000.00 $0 $0 $4,300,000.00
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