Battles gets one-year, $455,000 contract

Still seeking to fine-tune their roster a bit before training camp, the Pittsburgh Steelers have signed free-agent safety Ainsley Battles to a one-year, $455,000 contract.

Battles entered the league in 2000, making the Steelers as an undrafted free agent out of Vanderbilt. He spent the next two seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars, starting 11 games in 2001, but was out of the NFL in 2003.

Now 25, Battles had an impressive enough audition in a recent workout with the Steelers to earn an opportunity for a second tour of duty with the club. Known as a solid hitter, he is likely to be used mostly on special teams. Pittsburgh had been seeking to add another veteran safety.

In 45 career appearances, including 16 starts, Battles has registered 85 tackles, two sacks, three interceptions, five passes defensed and two forced fumbles.

Of a more significant nature, the Steelers huddled on Friday with the agents for Tommy Maddox and moved closer to a restructured contract for the starting quarterback, who is scheduled to earn just $750,000 in base salary for 2004. An accord could be reached as early as next week.

Team officials told Maddox and his representatives earlier this spring that his contract inequities would be addressed once Pittsburgh cleared some cap room. The Steelers created about $3.65 million in room by releasing starting strongside linebacker Jason Gildon Wednesday.

In addition to the talks with Maddox, the Steelers have opened discussions with the agents for linebacker Kendrell Bell and James Farrior, both of whom will be eligible for unrestricted free agency next spring if they don't sign extensions. Those talks are in the very early stages.