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Loss of Manuel no surprise to Steelers

Wednesday, February 10, 1999

By Ed Bouchette, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Black bunting did not drip from the Steelers' offices at Three Rivers Stadium when they learned they had lost Rod Manuel to the Cleveland Browns in the expansion draft yesterday.

  Defensive end Rod Manuel makes a makes a hit in a 1998 preseason game against Atlanta. (Roberto Borea, Associated Press)

There was no mourning, but there was a mysterious move involving tight end Harold Bishop, who had to be taken off their list.

Manuel's statistics in two seasons as a defensive end with the Steelers: 0 tackles, 0 assists, 0 special teams tackles. Since they made him a sixth-round draft choice from Oklahoma in 1997, Manuel played in just three games and played briefly in those.

He was the only player taken from the Steelers in the expansion draft, and they knew he would be gone before the draft began.

Young defensive ends who stand 6 feet 5, weigh 295 and earn minimum wage carry a value in the NFL.

"Young defensive linemen are tough to find," Coach Bill Cowher said. "He's a good, young prospect."

The Steelers have a number of defensive ends, including starters Nolan Harrison and Kevin Henry, and Orpheus Roye, but they also are likely to lose Oliver Gibson, who becomes an unrestricted free agent Friday.

After the Browns chose Manuel, the Steelers pulled cornerback Jason Simmons off the expansion list, as rules permitted. Simmons was a fifth-round draft choice last season and played in their dime defense before he broke his hand midway through the season. He also played on special teams.

The most intriguing move made before the draft, however, came when the NFL ruled that Bishop was not eligible to be placed on the expansion list by the Steelers.

Bishop, who played for the original Cleveland Browns in 1995, was one of five players placed on the list by the Steelers. After the NFL ruling, made last week but not announced, the Steelers replaced him with safety Bo Orlando.

Steelers executives referred all questions about Bishop to the league office. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said he was ruled ineligible for medical reasons but that he could not go into details. Bishop played sparingly as the team's third tight end and on special teams last season, catching one pass. He was not on the Steelers' injury list at the end of the season.

The other three players remain property of the Steelers - offensive tackle Will Wolford, wide receiver Jahine Arnold and Orlando. Wolford, though, plans to retire after 13 NFL seasons.

The Browns also drafted offensive tackle Paul Wiggins, who began last season with the Steelers but was released Oct. 16 after he served a four-game suspension for testing positive for Androstenedione and DHEA. Wiggins, who competed for the starting job at right tackle with Jamain Stephens in training camp, then signed with Washington, where he finished the season.

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