Sunday, March 11, 2007

A Good Free Agent Signing? Well,
He's No Punter

Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is reporting that the Steelers have signed four year veteran offensive lineman Sean Mahan, formerly of Tampa Bay, to a five-year contract. Mr. Mahan will turn 27-years old in May; and while there is a long way to go before he proves himself to be worthy of such a comparison, this signing is reminiscent of the free agent signing of Jeff Hartings (who played for Detroit for five seasons before coming to Pittsburgh in 2001).

Highly regarded coming out of Jenks High School in Oklahoma (he bench pressed 390 pounds, and played offensive tackle, defensive tackle, and defensive end) -- where he won an Oklahoma state football championship his senior season -- Mr. Mahan followed his father (who died when the younger Mahan was a sophomore in high school), sister, and uncle in going to Notre Dame.

During his freshman year, while playing defensive line on the field, Mr. Mahan received some shocking news off the field: "On campus just a couple months, Mahan got a call everyone dreads - - his mother had died. She had underwent minor surgery, complications arose and she did not recover" (South Bend Tribune. October 5, 1999. "His bragging rights Mahan has earned them," pg. B1). With support from his sister, aunts and uncles, Mr. Mahan made the decision to remain at Notre Dame. Evidence that the loss made him mature beyond his year is found in this statement to a reporter in August of 2002:
" 'I really didn't talk a lot about it to the guys on the team,' he said of his parents' passing. 'I'm kind of reserved, and I don't like to share my problems with other people. Sometimes, that's probably a bad thing, but that's the way I am, I guess.

'But you can always look at things another way. What a great thing it is to have a girlfriend like I have, whose parents are great and who have a room for me there. What a great thing it is to have such great family and friends.

'So I look at this year as a wonderful opportunity. I look around and see all the talent we have. I'm not going to bash anyone for what's gone on before. I'm going to think about the possibilities and how blessed I am to have a chance to be a part of it'
(South Bend Tribune. August 19, 2002. "Ready to dish it out: ND line aims to dominate," pg. 1.)

During his Notre Dame career Mr. Mahan eventually moved permanently to the offensive line -- playing guard, tackle, and center -- and played along side Jeff Faine.

After being chosen in the fifth round of the 2003 draft, Mr. Mahan played in nine games his rookie season (mostly on special teams); and in 2004 he became the starting center after the incumbent, John Wade, suffered a knee injury on the first play of a game versus Kansas City (November 7, 2004). Mr. Mahan eventually started eight games at that position. In 2005 he started all of Tamapa Bay's 16 games at right guard, but in 2006 injuries along the Buccaneers offensive line resulted in Mr. Mahan being moved (according to one media account) "around like a ping- pong ball." As a result he started one game at left guard, then three games at right guard, and the final twelve games of the season back at left guard.

Valued for his willingness and ability to play different positions along the offensive front, Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune described Mr. Mahan's value this way (emphasis aded):
"NCREASED INCENTIVE: The need to re-sign G/C Sean Mahan has increased dramatically since the Bucs learned the news about LG Dan Buenning's season-ending knee injury.

Buenning, who went down during the Thanksgiving loss to Dallas, suffered a complete tear of his right anterior cruciate ligament. The injury is one that likely will keep Buenning off the field until at least training camp . . .

Mahan has replaced Buenning as the starter at left guard . . . [b]ut Mahan is slated to become an unrestricted free agent after this season.

The Bucs always have viewed Mahan as their center of the future, but with Buenning expected to miss the entire offseason workout program, the best option might be to re-sign Mahan and earmark him for left guard
(Tampa Tribune. December 9, 2006. "Bucs Notebook," pg. 7).

Now Sean Mahan is a Pittsburgh Steeler -- how must Chukky Okobi feel? -- and for him and his new team the future may well be now.

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