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After Four Unexpectedly Solid Years as a Valuable Reserve in Pittsburgh, Nick Eason Heads West to Join Ray Horton's Defense in Arizona

When the Pittburgh Steelers took Cameron Heyward in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, it pretty much signaled the end of the Nick Eason era in Pittsburgh. Obviously drafting Heyward means much more than that to the Steelers future, but with Aaron Smith, Brett Keisel and Casey Hampton all still in the fold for 2011, and Ziggy Hood emerging last season to establish himself as a regular fixture in the rotation in 2011, Eason no longer made much sense to keep around the depth chart as a reserve. On Thursday afternoon, Eason was in fact plucked out of the free agency ranks by the Arizona Cardinals, whose defense is in far greater need of depth at DL than is the Steelers.

Just a quick tip of the cap to Eason for the phenomenal work he did with the Steelers since arriving from Cleveland back in 2007 as an unpolished project that needed to improve his strength and technique if he was even going to stick around the bottom off the depth chart at DE. Well, Eason did just that after looking out of sorts and overwhelmed in '07. From '08 to '10, Eason gradually improved each year, becoming as solid and trustworthy in rotations as guys like Travis Kirschke that came before him.

Eason was the 2010 recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award Winner, an honor bestowed on one player on all 32 teams for 'his commitment to the principles of courage and sportsmanship while serving as an inspiration in the locker rooms and community'  Eason was given the award after successfully battling back from appendicitis during the 2010 offseason. He lost untold amounts of weight and strength during the surgery and recovery process, but still managed to get back into shape in time to play in all 16 games last season, including five starts.

No word on the specifics of Eason's new deal with the Cardinals other than that it is a two-year deal. Cardinals beat reporters have reported that the acquisition is strictly for depth purposes. A nice addition to the Cardinals' defense in what will be Rey Horton's first year as defensive coordinator. The Cardinals are in need of capable, experienced bodies to backup their starters, and Horton will know exactly how to utilize Eason this coming season while he acclimates himself to the new talent he'll be working with.