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Steelers Steelers sign Peterson to 4-year deal as new kicker

Tuesday, March 26, 2002

By Ed Bouchette, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

The Steelers yesterday told Kris Brown the same thing he showed them when he kicked in Heinz Field last season: There are no guarantees.

Todd Peterson meets the media yesterday as Coach Bill Cowher listens to his new kicker. (V.W.H. Campbell, Jr. Post-Gazette)

Todd Peterson signed a $3.925 million contract to kick for the Steelers the next four years. The Steelers then let Brown go to the Houston Texans because he refused to restructure the contract he signed with the Texans as a restricted free agent.

The Steelers will get the first pick in the seventh round of the NFL draft next month as compensation for losing Brown to the Texans.

Brown also said he preferred to return to his native Texas.

Coach Bill Cowher might not have bought that explanation because he laughingly proclaimed that "Heinz Field has claimed a kicker."

Brown had 10 of his league-high 14 field goal misses last season in Heinz Field, where opponents made only 3 of 9. Cowher then noted that Brown and the Texans will visit Heinz Field next season.

"I just wouldn't want to be an opposing kicker to come in here and kick," Cowher said. "I think there's no question there is something to it."

Brown said he had nothing to fear.

"It's not a situation where I was scared to kick at Heinz Field. If Pittsburgh matched, I would have been very happy to stay here and I would have done well at Heinz Field. It's not a situation for me to get out of kicking at Heinz Field. I know people will say that and they are entitled to their feelings, but Heinz Field had nothing to do with that."

 
 
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The Steelers ran into some last-minute snags with Peterson, an unrestricted free agent from the Chiefs, when Kansas City called him yesterday and purported to offer him a $1 million signing bonus. That prompted the Steelers to change their deal from three years to four to allow them to bump up his signing bonus from $450,000 to $600,000 and that was enough for Peterson.

"It was an easy decision for me, as it got right down to it, because of the integrity ... of the people I dealt with here. That's all I'd like to say about that situation. I believe what you see is what you get here."

Brown's four-year, $4.7 million contract included a $1 million signing bonus and $750,000 worth of guaranteed money in the final two years. The Steelers were willing to match that contract and keep Brown, if he would have agreed to redo it and move the guaranteed money into a signing bonus. He declined,.

Kevin Colbert, the Steelers' director of football operations, said the team still would have matched the deal had they not decided that Peterson was a capable replacement for him.

"I talked to Kris about the possibility of restructuring his deal," Colbert said, "and he said if we decided to match the deal he would be a professional and do the best he could, but he let it be known that his preference was to go to Houston."

Said Coach Bill Cowher, "Do you want a player who doesn't want to be here or a player who wants to be here? Kris made his feelings known -- he did not want to be part of this football team."

Brown said the reason he preferred to play in Houston was to be closer to his family and two young siblings in Dallas. Brown said he enjoyed his stay here, loved kicking for the Steelers and wasn't looking to leave, but the allure of returning to Texas was too great. He also said he was excited to be kicking for an expansion team.

"That's part of the excitement of going to Houston as well, starting from the ground up, being part of a new team and being with my family down there," Brown said.

Peterson, 32, said he has friends in Pittsburgh, but the main reason he came here was to win.

"There's no greater tradition in this league than Pittsburgh," said Peterson, who lives in Atlanta and kicked at the University of Georgia. "When we were contacted by Pittsburgh a few days ago and talks started heating up, it became very exciting for me because I knew this team was very close at winning it all last year. My best friend got to win the Super Bowl with New England and I'm a little envious. I'm tickled and cannot wait to get started. My wife is bouncing up and down. We have a lot of friends here, not only on the team but in the community. I'm just excited to be part of this franchise."

Peterson kicked for three teams in seven years. He made 27 of 35 field-goal attempts last season and has a career success rate of 79.8 percent on field goal tries. Kansas City signed him in the middle of the 2000 season. Seattle cut him that summer because he had a groin injury.

The Steelers also had talked to the agent for former Jacksonville kicker Mike Hollis. But Hollis does not kick off and Peterson does.

"He kicks away similar to Kris," Cowher said. "I don't think there will be much difference between him and Kris Brown."

Cowher does hope there is a difference when Peterson kicks at Heinz Field. Peterson said he will start doing so soon.

"I'm going to do everything I can to understand the stadium. I'm going to get in there this spring and summer and kick in there before it counts.

"Obviously, this is the first year people experienced it. I think it got talked about a little bit. My perspective is like Coach Cowher -- let's make it the worst stadium in the league to kick in, then we have a competitive advantage."

Peterson will receive annual salaries of $650,000, $675,000, $700,000 and $1 million. He also will receive $100,000 roster bonuses in each of the final three years of the four-year deal. He will count $800,000 against the team's salary cap this season. The Steelers fit him under their cap without having to make another move.

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