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Old 07-27-2005, 12:50 AM   #1
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Default Steelers look to get Ward, McFadden, & Essex done before camp...

The organization hopes to complete contracts for cornerback Bryant McFadden (second round), offensive tackle Trai Essex (third round) and a long-term extension for veteran wideout Hines Ward prior to the opening of training camp.

All three are represented by agent Roosevelt Barnes, who has failed to return phone calls to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review the past two weeks.

Ward is scheduled to make a base salary of $1,668,750 in the final year of his contract. Steelers president Art Rooney II has said that signing Ward to an extension is a priority. The 29-year-old Ward caught 80 passes for 1,004 yards with four TDs, and played in his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl last season.

Ward's representatives began talking with the Steelers this spring, but negotiations have moved slowly, even stalling at one point. Ward has not made his contract demands public, though he did tell Pittsburgh Trib columnist Joe Starkey at minicamp that "I am to this team what Marvin (Harrison) is to his team."

Harrison, the star wideout for the Indianapolis Colts, signed a seven-year contract in December that guaranteed $23 million the first two years, including a signing bonus reportedly worth $13 million. The highest guaranteed payout in Steelers history ($9 million) was paid to Roethlisberger.

As for Miller, he'll open training camp behind veteran tight end Jerame Tuman (nine catches for 89 yards with three TDs last season), but his talents may make it difficult to keep him off the field.

Miller won the Mackey Award last season as the nation's top tight end, capping a career in which he hauled in 144 passes for 1,703 yards with 20 TDs in just three years. He had 70 receptions as a sophomore, but just 41 as a junior due in large part to a nagging sports hernia that caused some NFL teams to shy away from him in the first round of the draft.

But Miller moved well during minicamp and at the team's voluntary coaching workouts on the South Side in May and June, displaying soft hands and an ability to find open spots in the secondary. He offers a big target for Roethlisberger, just as Plaxico Burress did last season.

NOTE - Herron, a running back from Northwestern, will earn annual salaries of $230,000, $310,000 and $385,000 with a $30,100 signing bonus.
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