INDIANAPOLIS -- Kevin Colbert acknowledged the Steelers have serious issues with the salary cap and determining which veteran players can be re-signed or which should be released. And he has a problem with an anonymous Steelers player criticizing a teammate's conditioning and performance.
But he does not believe the Steelers have a discord problem in the locker room. And he does not have a problem with LaMarr Woodley.
"Whether you win the Super Bowl or go 8-8, there's no 100 percent harmonious locker room," said Colbert, the Steelers general manager. "I don't care where it is. That's exemplified more when you do go 8-8. Quite honestly, I'm not concerned about our locker room.
"Coach [Mike] Tomlin and I had an opportunity to speak to our players, sometimes more than once, since the season ended. We have a very good finger on the pulse of where we stand from a team standpoint. We're comfortable with that."
Colbert's comments, made to a small group of reporters who cover the Steelers, were the first since an unidentified Steelers player criticized Woodley's lack of conditioning and called his 2012 performance "awful" in a column in the Sunday Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Woodley had only four sacks -- his fewest since his rookie season -- and missed several games because of hamstring and ankle injuries.
"I was bothered by the fact it was an anonymous comment," Colbert said at the six-day NFL combine that began Wednesday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
"I don't believe any comments made about LaMarr Woodley. LaMarr Woodley has been a significant player on very successful teams, and we're happy he's part of our team.
"If you talk to LaMarr, he'll be the first to tell you he was disappointed in his performance. Going forward, he's going to try to erase that season. I don't give any credence to any comment that's not attributed to a player. That's a bigger disappointment to me than anything LaMarr Woodley did or didn't do."
Meantime, Colbert said the Steelers will not make any decisions on their own free agents until they return from the combine, which runs through Tuesday.
He said part of those decisions will be based on evaluations the Steelers make -- "Some upgraded, some downgraded," he said -- on players at the combine.
But he disputed the notion they are a team in transition, saying that implies they are a team that does not think it can win the Super Bowl.
"I don't view our team as old," Colbert said. "Sure, we have some old players, but they are significant players. We have a lot of young guys who I think are ready to take the next step if it is their turn. We'll find out where they all are after free agency, after the draft."
Colbert said he would not talk about individual players who won't be re-signed or offered contracts. But he said: "I do know this, we won't be able to sign everybody."
And he promised again there will be changes. What's more, he did not try to put a positive spin on the season.
"There's a fine line between winning and losing, but in my mind we were 8-8, and I know we were 8-8," Colbert said. "From our standpoint, we have to approach it that way.
"We have to change things, first to get in compliance with the cap, which we'll do by March 13. And then we have to be open to improve this team any way we can.
"Coming out of this process, we'll have a better idea where we stand."
About tight ends ...
The Steelers might take a tight end in the draft, but Colbert said it would not have anything to do with the health of Heath Miller, who is recovering from surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Miller, the team's leading receiver, was injured in the season finale against the Cleveland Browns.
Colbert said it's still too early to know when Miller will be able to return, but more than likely he will miss most, if not all, of training camp.
"In my mind, when you have an ACL late in the year, I still don't believe a player is 100 percent until a year is up," Colbert said.
"They may play before that, but ... if you get something 100 percent before a year, it's a bonus. We'll know more when we get to April. He'll be back at some point, but if we look at a tight end, it will depend on the tight end more than Heath Miller's status."
Spence progressing, but ...
Colbert said there is still no timetable for the possible return of inside linebacker Sean Spence, whose rookie season ended after multiple ligament tears in his knee in the preseason.
Colbert said Spence, a third-round pick, is progressing and doing everything doctors and trainers have asked him to do. But the injury is so severe -- Colbert referred to it as "an unknown injury" -- there is some question if Spence will be able to come back, not when.
"He's not recovered yet and, quite honestly, we have to keep our fingers crossed," Colbert said.
"We just hold out hope Sean can have a successful recovery and be a Steeler."Steelers - mobilehome
Gerry Dulac: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @gerrydulac.