Rams sign veteran OT Steussie to one-year deal

Twelve-year veteran offensive tackle Todd Steussie, who has missed only two games in his career, on Friday signed a one-year contract with the St. Louis Rams, and will contend for the spot as the team's top backup at the position in 2006.

While contract details were not yet available, it is believed that the deal includes a base salary of $810,000, the league minimum for a player of Steussie's tenure.

Steussie, 35, played the last two seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, primarily as a backup, and he will be joining his fourth NFL franchise. The Rams, who are very thin at tackle and had no proven No. 3 player at the position, have been seeking a veteran insurance-type player for much of the offseason.

Given his experience as a starter at both tackle spots, Steussie figures to be the top backup to left tackle Orlando Pace and right tackle Alex Barron. It is a good situation for Steussie at this late juncture of his career and a good move for the Rams, as well, to land a player of his experience.

St. Louis coaches clearly feel that the durable Steussie, whose résumé includes 190 appearances and 164 starts, can still perform at a high level in a limited role.

A first-round choice of Minnesota in the 1994 draft, Steussie played seven seasons for the Vikings and then signed with the Carolina Panthers as a free agent in 2001 after being released for salary cap reasons. He then joined the Bucs in 2004. Steussie was released last July for salary cap reasons, then was hurriedly re-signed by Tampa Bay in August, when the team's offensive line was decimated by injuries.

In the past two seasons, Steussie has started only five games, but that is hardly a concern to the Rams, who were strictly seeking a dependable veteran to fill a reserve role. He hasn't been a full-time starter since 2003. Steussie was one of the Carolina Panthers players alleged to have received steroids from Columbia, S.C.-based physician Dr. James Shortt.

The former University of California star, who also spoke with the Atlanta Falcons about a job in the offseason, has played in two Pro Bowl games.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.