Despite looming lockout, Steelers begin talks with Taylor


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INDIANAPOLIS -- On the first day of the NFL Scouting Combine, Kevin Colbert said cornerback is no more a priority for the Steelers than any other position they might address in the draft.

But there is some sense of urgency about the position because the Steelers would like to re-sign their top cornerback, Ike Taylor, before the collective bargaining agreement expires March 4 and a lockout by the NFL owners ensues.

And they already have had what Colbert termed "preliminary discussions" on a new contract with Taylor, who is an unrestricted free agent.

The Steelers elected not use the transition tag on Taylor, which would have paid him the average of the top 10 cornerbacks in the league, or $11,817,000, in 2011. They had until 4 p.m. Thursday to do so.

But they would like to sign him to a new contract because the position would spring more holes without him.

"We're really just approaching this one guy at a time," Colbert said.

Even if the Steelers re-sign Taylor, who will turn 31 in May and is coming off arguably his best season in his eight-year career, it shouldn't impact what would appear to be a need for a top cornerback in the draft.

Colbert, though, wouldn't go that far. Aside from quarterback, he said every position is open to be addressed with their No. 1 pick, not just cornerback.

"We're not going to limit ourselves to one position," Colbert said. "We'll see where we stand draft day as far as what else we were able to achieve.

"Any position is open to our potential drafting. I mean that sincerely. I don't know where we're going to be in two months."

Re-signing Taylor would be part of the process. So would right tackle Willie Colon, another unrestricted free agent who missed all of last season.

Colbert said the Steelers want to re-sign Colon, whom they considered their best offensive lineman after the 2009 season. But Joe Linta, Colon's agent, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last week there is little chance of his client returning to the Steelers.

Impacting that decision could be the future of right tackle Flozell Adams, whom Colbert said is in the "evaluating phase of whether he wants to continue to play." Adams, who will be 36 May 18, enters the final year of a two-year, $7.5 million contract he signed before the start of training camp last season.

"First of all, you don't know where Flozell is, whether he's going to continue or not, so you have to just continue the conversations with everybody," Colbert said. "There's so many unknowns that you can't specifically say, 'We're going to do this or that' because we haven't honestly approached guys in formal conversations."

The lone exception is Taylor. And, of course, outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley, who already has signed a one-year franchise tender that will pay him approximately $10 million -- the average salary of the top five linebackers in 2010 -- next season.

Colbert said the Steelers have told Woodley, who has 39 sacks in four seasons, they want to sign him to a long-term contract. They said much the same thing last year, too, when they placed the franchise tag on kicker Jeff Reed, who never was signed to a new contract. Reed was released later in the season.

"Both he and his agent are aware that, at some point, we want to do a long-term deal with him," Colbert said. "The rest of the guys ... you know how we operate -- we're going to step back and say, 'OK, we know we've got this with LaMarr.' Now, what could potentially happen, we don't know yet."

Colbert's reference was to the possibility of a lockout, which could occur next Friday, but also what might be outlined in a new collective bargaining agreement.

"Usually, at this time of year, you're evaluating free agency, the class," Colbert said. "Right now, we just evaluated the league and we'll react accordingly, and our pro scouts have done that throughout the year. But, really, our focus had just been on this draft because it's going to happen exactly as it has been, so we've got to give our full attention to the draft process."


Gerry Dulac: gdulac@post-gazette.com .


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