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Steelers Hampton's job is to make new house 'home'

Monday, July 23, 2001

By Gerry Dulac, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Not long after he was chosen by the Steelers in the first round of the draft, Casey Hampton did something he always wanted to do. He bought a house in Galveston, Texas, for his mom, Ivory Anderson. Picked it out himself. Only he didn't let on to her what he was doing.

Casey Hampton worked with the second team yesterday. (Gary Tramontina, Associated Press)

"I wanted to surprise her," Hampton said.

He accomplished that the day he took her to see the house, gave her the keys and explained it was her new home.

Now that he has the money to pay for the house, Hampton has arrived at his new summer home, hoping not to pull too many more surprises.

That's because the Steelers have a lot of expectations for their 6-foot-1, 315-pound nose tackle.

And they're hoping Hampton doesn't do anything to disappoint.

"It was good to see his wide body out there," Coach Bill Cowher said.

Hampton, the 19th overall pick in the draft, arrived at St. Vincent College in Latrobe at 1 a.m. yesterday and signed a five-year, $6.8 million contract that includes a $3.1 million signing bonus. After meeting the media at 9 a.m., he was hustled off to meetings with defensive coaches, then was on the field with his new teammates for an afternoon practice.

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Cowher wasted little time putting Hampton on the field, sending him in with the second-team defense against the first-team offense on the first play of full hitting.

"I got to get back in the flow of things," Hampton said afterward. "Everyone else has been out here a couple days. My legs got tired at the end. But I'll get them back."

Hampton began his first day as a backup to Kendrick Clancy, a second-year nose tackle, but that is expected to be only a short-term arrangement. Shortly after drafting Hampton with the first pick, Cowher said Kimo von Oelhoffen, the starting nose tackle last year, would be moved to defensive end to take more advantage of his quickness.

That wasn't done to make room for Clancy, a third-round pick in 2000.

It was done to get Hampton into the starting lineup as quickly as possible.

It was the second year in a row the Steelers moved one of their starters to make room for a top pick. Last year, Troy Edwards, a No. 1 pick in 1999 who tied for the team lead in receptions (61) as a rookie, was moved from split end to flanker because the Steelers wanted to get him and Plaxico Burress, their No. 1 pick in 2000, on the field at the same time.

That move, though, will not go down as one of their best. Burress and Edwards combined for just 40 catches and did not produce a touchdown between them. Worse, each player eventually lost his starting position.

"I feel that expectation when you go in the first round," Hampton said. "That alone is enough to make me go out there and try to do my best to help the team win. That comes along with being a first-rounder."

Hampton's thick build and powerful legs remind the Steelers of their former nose tackle, Joel Steed. And they're hoping Hampton can play the way Steed did -- use his considerable girth and strength to clog the middle and create space for their inside linebackers.

After what he saw yesterday, center Jeff Hartings thinks Hampton will play a similar style.

"He's big, strong and he stays down," said Hartings, signed in the off-season as a free agent from the Detroit Lions to replace Dermontti Dawson. "I think he'll be a pretty good fit in the 3-4 [defense]. He's good at staying low. Anytime you can stay low and you got some strength, it's going to be tough to move a guy in the NFL."

Hampton did not miss much during his brief holdout -- two practices and 14 40-yard sprints -- so there is little catch-up work to do. Nonetheless, he said he urged his agent, Brian Overstreet, to complete negotiations with the Steelers because he wanted to be at camp with his new teammates.

"It's really hard [sitting out]," Hampton said. "It's something I've never really done. But you have to look at it like a business. I got to make sure I get the best deal I can for Casey. You have to be a little selfish in a way, but you got to try to get the deal done so you can be with the team. I think they got it done in timely fashion."

The two sides came to an agreement Saturday, when Overstreet said he liked the idea that most of the money from Hampton's deal -- $4.1 million -- will come in the first two years of his contract. That money is all but guaranteed because teams cannot afford to risk cutting a first-round pick before then because of the problems it would create with the salary cap.

"Both sides always wanted to get the deal done," Overstreet said. "It wasn't a case where they weren't working diligently or we weren't working diligently. We moved some money around, got it in the front of the contract and got some fair incentives that will be easy for him to make."

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