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Pat Bigold

The Way I See It

By Pat Bigold

Tuesday, February 15, 2000

Steelers made
Von Oelhoffen an offer
he couldn’t refuse

KIMO von Oelhoffen, whose high school couldn't even offer football, became a multi-millionaire yesterday in the administrative offices of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The four-year, $11 million deal, with a $3 million signing bonus, is not only sweet for the 28-year-old native of Kaunakakai, Molokai, but also for another Steeler who's been lonely for some company from the islands.

"That's exciting for me," said 22-year-old reserve running back Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala (St. Louis School) from his fiancee's home in Makaha.

"Finally someone I can relate to 100 percent."

The 6-foot-4, 305-pound von Oelhoffen, married to former Wahine basketball star Tondi Redden, said he and his wife will be getting together with Fuamatu-Ma'afala and his lady, Adriana Wilson.

"Everybody loves Chris in Pittsburgh," said von Oelhoffen, who will be entering his seventh season as a pro .

HE said he expects to play both defensive end and nose tackle but didn't subscribe to a report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that his arrival signals the end for Pro Bowl nose tackle Joel Steed.

Steed has had knee problems the past two seasons and the Steelers would save $2 million under the salary cap if they let him go.

"I would love to play next to him (Steed)," said von Oelhoffen, who had his best season statistically last year (24 tackles and four sacks).

Von Oelhoffen also said it felt great to be playing for a team that "knows how to win."

Pittsburgh fans don't think the Steelers know how to win anymore after a dismal 6-10 season, but von Oelhoffen pointed out that Pittsburgh lost five games within a seven-point margin.

Losing von Oelhoffen had to be a shock to Bengals management. He had indicated during Pro Bowl week he expected to stay in Cincinnati.

It's ironic that Steed, Pittsburgh's starter for seven seasons, is now rumored expendable due to von Oelhoffen's arrival. It was Steed's backup, Oliver Gibson, who took away von Oelhoffen's starting job at nose tackle when he was traded to Cincinnati in 1999.

Even more ironic is the expectation in Cincinnati today that Steed will wind up there.

VON Oelhoffen had started 29 of the Bengals' 32 games at nose tackle in 1998. He started five games last year and backed up Gibson at nose tackle in the others. But shifting to end when the Bengals played a four-man line gave him the opportunity get in his licks at the quarterback. That was a new experience for von Oelhoffen and it obviously impressed the Steelers.

He had only one sack in his entire career prior to last season.

Pittsburgh has been in desperate need of solid defensive linemen.

The Steelers' best end, Orpheus Roye, signed a free agent deal with the Cleveland Browns on Saturday and another former starter, Nolan Harrison, is a free agent.

You've got to hand it to von Oelhoffen for making big-time bucks at the NFL level. Not only was he unable to play football at Molokai High but he was drafted in the sixth round in 1994 by the Bengals out of Boise State, a Division I-AA school.

Pat Bigold has covered sports for daily newspapers
in Hawaii and Massachusetts since 1978.

E-mail to Sports Editor

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