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Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Steelers sign first free agent of the year

By Jamison Hensley

It's taken 28 days and their usual amount of patience but the Pittsburgh Steelers finally signed their first free agent, reaching a one-year deal with tight end/lockout hero Leonard Pope.

While Pope is hardly a high-profile addition, he will serve a couple of important roles for the Steelers.

Pittsburgh needed a No. 2 tight end behind Heath Miller. Weslye Saunders has been suspended for the first four games of 2012 for violating the league's rule on the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Pope is also someone who knows offensive coordinator Todd Haley's system as well as anyone in the league. He played under Haley for two seasons in Arizona (2007 and 2008) and followed him in 2009 to Kansas City where he played three seasons. Pope can certainly help teammates in the transition to Haley's style of offense.

In 16 games last season, including 10 starts, Pope caught a career-high 24 passes for 247 yards and one touchdown.

Pope is more known for what he did off the field last season. In June, during the NFL lockout, Pope saved 6-year-old boy Bryson Moore from drowning at a pool party. "All of a sudden, I saw Bryson going down in the water and I started screaming," the boy's mother said last year. "Leonard was inside, and he came out of nowhere and dove into the water without any hesitation, cell phone in his pocket and all. He saved my son’s life."