PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Steelers shored up their leaky secondary on the first day of free agency, signing former Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Steven Nelson to a three-year deal worth $25.5 million.
The Steelers entered the offseason prioritizing defensive players who could create takeaways after they produced just 15 turnovers in 2018. The 26-year-old Nelson had four interceptions with the Chiefs last season, matching the entire total of Pittsburgh’s secondary.
Nelson will line up across from veteran Joe Haden, pushing former first-round pick Artie Burns into a reserve role and putting his long-term future with the team in doubt. Burns, Pittsburgh’s top selection in the 2016 draft, struggled to stay in the lineup last season.
Kansas City grabbed the 5-foot-11, 194-pound Nelson in the third round of the 2015 draft. He played in 52 games, including 38 starts, across four seasons with the Chiefs.
“I’m all smiles right now can’t be happier they got a straight worker,” Nelson tweeted shortly after agreeing to terms.
Pittsburgh re-signed linebacker Anthony Chickillo to a two-year deal worth $8 million. Chickillo, a sixth-round pick in the 2015 draft, has seven career sacks and has carved out niche as a valuable contributor on special teams. The Steelers also re-signed punter Jordan Berry to a two-year deal. Berry averaged 43.7 yards per kick in 2018, right in line with his career average of 43.8.
While Pittsburgh signed center Maurkice Pouncey and guard Ramon Foster to new deals last week, the Steelers sent right tackle Marcus Gilbert to Arizona in exchange for a sixth-round pick. Gilbert, a second-round choice in 2011, started 87 games for the Steelers, most of them at right tackle. He ran into injury trouble in each of the last two seasons and also missed four weeks for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancers.
Gilbert played just five games in 2018 due to a lingering knee injury that sent him to injured reserve in December.
The Steelers have some in-house options to replace Gilbert, including second-year lineman Chukwuma Okorafor, veteran Matt Feiler and Jerald Hawkins, a fourth-round pick in 2016 who has played in just five games mostly due to injuries.