Steelers Sign First Free Agent, TE Leonard Pope

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - OCTOBER 10: Leonard Pope #45 of the Kansas City Chiefs runs with the football against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on October 10, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)

Just a few hours after writing about the Steelers bringing former Cardinals and Chiefs TE Leonard Pope into Pittsburgh for a job interview, the Steelers announced they signed the seven year veteran to a one-year deal.

Pope, a former Todd Haley student on two different teams, looks to fill in as the Steelers' second tight end, behind TE Heath Miller.

The role Pope will play (if any) isn't exactly clear right now, but the fact he's been a blocking tight end in his six previous seasons, odds are good the team will use the 6-foot-8 Pope as a blocker.

He wore No. 45 last season with the Chiefs. NFL rules prohibit tight ends from wearing numbers outside 80-89. That's why H-backs wear numbers in the 40s. The difference is minor from a formation perspective - Pope just wouldn't be allowed on the line.

He does have 101 career catches, so asking him to run a pattern or two wouldn't be akin to asking him to speak Latin in front of the team.

Pope is the first unrestricted free agent the Steelers have singed this off-season, and could be the only one. The cap-strapped Steelers haven't had much flexibility in terms of bringing new players in, indicating Pope's contract isn't for much more, if any, than the minimum.

The roles of David Johnson (a restricted free agent with a low-level tender) and Weslye Saunders (suspended for the first four games of the 2012 season) are up in the air, but it will be interesting to see how Haley, the Steelers new offensive coordinator, will use the interesting mix of youth, talent, ability and eligibility, in training camp.

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