Since entering the league in 1994, Todd Steussie has started 173 of a possible 174 games for the Vikings and Panthers
Is there a more popular destination among NFL free agents than Tampa Bay?
Certainly not for offensive lineman. For the fourth time in less than two weeks of free agency, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have added a starting-caliber offensive lineman, this time two-time Pro Bowler Todd Steussie.
Steussie's contract, the terms of which were not disclosed by the team, was completed Monday morning, and the team scheduled a 2:00 p.m. ET press conference to introduce their newest stud blocker. That press conference will be carried live on Buccaneers.com.
"Todd is a reliable, veteran performer," Head Coach Jon Gruden said. "He further adds a lot of positive traits to our offensive line."
Steussie, who was released on Thursday by the Carolina Panthers in a salary cap-related move, has played in 173 of a possible 174 regular-season and postseason games in his 10 years in the league, starting each of those 173 games at left tackle. After seven years with the Minnesota Vikings, including Pro Bowl campaigns in 1998 and 1999, Steussie joined Carolina in 2001. This past season, he helped the Panthers reach their first Super Bowl, a run powered in large part by the NFL's seventh-ranked rushing attack.
Steussie's signing continues what appears to be a dramatic overhaul of Tampa Bay's offensive line, considered a main area of concern heading into free agency. In just 13 days, the Bucs have signed four new linemen, all of whom have been starters throughout their NFL careers. While Steussie has played exclusively at left tackle, previous signees Derrick Deese, Matt Stinchcomb and Matt O'Dwyer all have demonstrated the versatility to start at several positions on the line.
At 6-6 and 308 pounds, Steussie also continues an apparent trend towards a bigger line for the Buccaneers. Stinchcomb measures in at 6-6 and 310 pounds while O'Dwyer stands in at 6-5 and 313 pounds.
In all, the relentlessly active Bucs have signed or re-signed 11 players since free agency opened on March 3. In addition to a brand new front wall, the team has also added running back Charlie Garner, punter Josh Bidwell, linebackers Keith Burns and Jeff Gooch, fullback Greg Comella and tight end Dave Moore. Rickey Dudley, one of the Bucs' own unrestricted free agents, has been re-signed.
Steussie's last game as a Panther was Super Bowl XXXVIII, which Carolina lost in the final seconds to the New England Patriots. He started every game at left tackle, just as he did in his first two seasons in Carolina, helping running back Stephen Davis pile up 1,444 yards on the ground. The last time Steussie missed a game was with the Vikings in 1998, coincidentally a contest played in Raymond James Stadium against the Buccaneers on November 1.
A first-round draft pick by Minnesota in 1994, Steussie quickly became the anchor of an enormously successful offensive line with the Vikings. Surrounded by the likes of Randall McDaniel, Jeff Christy, Korey Stringer and David Dixon, Steussie blocked for a Minnesota offense that routinely ranked near the top of the league charts.
As a rookie in 1994, Steussie stepped right in at left tackle and started all 16 games, winning all-rookie honors from several publications and helping Minnesota rank third in the NFL in total offense. The Vikings added running back Robert Smith the next season and by 1997, Steussie and company had helped Smith post a 1,000-yard rushing campaign, the first of four straight. Steussie earned his first Pro Bowl bid that year.
By the next season, the Vikings had the league's most explosive offense and the offensive line played a huge part in helping the team score a league-record 556 points. Though Minnesota threw the ball 533 times in 1998, the offensive line allowed just 25 sacks. Steussie made another trip to the Pro Bowl and was a second-team AP All-Pro.
Steussie was the 19th player drafted overall in 1994 after starting a school-record 47 consecutive games at California. He earned first-team All-PAC 10 honors as a junior and senior and was a second-team choice as a sophomore. Interestingly, during Steussie's college career he came in contact with both of the Buccaneers' current offensive and defensive coordinators. He was coached by Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach Bill Muir in the East-West Shrine Game, and was also recruited and coached by Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Line Coach Rod Marinelli as a freshman defensive lineman with the Golden Bears.
Steussie hails from Aguora, California.