Colbert: Steelers will not trade up in the NFL draft, but may trade down

It has been eight years since the Steelers traded up in the first round of the NFL draft to take a wide receiver they really liked — Santonio Holmes.

If they wanted the wide receiver they really liked in the draft this year, they are not going to trade up to get him. That’s because they can’t — or won’t — said general manager Kevin Colbert.

The Steelers have the 15th overall pick in the draft that begins Thursday night in New York, and Colbert said Monday that trading up in the first round is not an option because they traded away their third-round choice a year ago to draft safety Shamarko Thomas in the fourth round. Colbert said, however, that trading down is a “real possibility” because of the amount of talent in the draft.

Steelers Report: Team says NFL draft pool is 'deep'

Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert say the upcoming NFL draft is the deepest they've seen in 30 years. Steelers beat writers Ed Bouchette and Gerry Dulac offer their insight. (Video by Andrew Rush; 5/5/2014)

“We won’t be trading up because we can’t,” Colbert said at a pre-draft news conference with coach Mike Tomlin at the team’s South Side facility. “We can still trade down and, with the depth of the draft, that’s a real possibility. Or, at least, it’s an option that’s available to us.”

Colbert called this draft the deepest he has seen in 30 years, and thinks that will make more quality players available to them at No. 15 — or even lower if they traded down. The Steelers haven’t traded down in the first round since 2001, when they moved down three spots to draft nose tackle Casey Hampton with the 19th overall pick. The Steelers traded with the New York Jets and received a fourth- and sixth-round pick in return.

“The player that is going to be available to us at 15, in years past, you may have had to been picking at seven or maybe eight to get the same quality of a player,” Colbert said. “There are easily 15 players available that we will be very happy with if we are able to pick them. I think you can go and say there are probably at least 19 that you could say you’d be happy to get at pick No. 15. It’s unique.”

If the Steelers don’t move down in the first the round, Colbert said certain positions “are off the table.” That means they have their sights set on just several positions, specifically wide receiver, cornerback, outside linebacker and defensive line.

If they move down, Colbert said, “no position” is off the table, but it is unlikely they would draft a quarterback or running back in the first round.

“It created a lot of interesting and exciting discussions,” Colbert said. “We had to spend more time on the receivers and the cornerbacks, especially the receivers, because there are so many. We kept looking at ourselves and said, ‘This is really great.’ We have some nice options available to us that in years past we hadn’t.”

Ideally, the Steelers would like to draft a tall wide receiver in the first round, but they do not expect the player they like — Mike Evans of Texas A&M — to be available. So, depending how the draft falls, they could take one of two cornerbacks — Justin Gilbert of Oklahoma State or Darqueze Dennard of Michigan State — or trade down and possibly select Florida State wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin.

If they trade down, don’t discount the possibility of drafting a defensive lineman who can rush the passer — something the Steelers seek because of how much time they spend in sub-packages.

“I think that there’s a premium on pass-rush capabilities and probably interior pass-rush capabilities,” Tomlin said. “Probably a stronger case for that than there’s been in other years simply because of the number of snaps that we’re playing in sub-package football.”

Colbert said the quarterbacks who could go in the first round — Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr — are the key to how the draft will unfold. After the NFL combine in February, early projections had three, and perhaps four, among the first eight picks because five of the top eight teams — Houston, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Oakland and Minnesota — need a quarterback.

Lately, most mock drafts have just two quarterbacks going in the top eight picks — Manziel and Bortles. Mike Mayock of NFL Network said he expects a run on quarterbacks to begin near the end of the first round because of the depth of talent — not necessarily elite talent — at the position.

“The quarterbacks are the linchpins in this whole thing,” Colbert said. “If you polled all 32 teams, they’d probably all have the quarterbacks rated differently because I think there’s different likes and dislikes for each player. I think that’s the one thing that could really trigger the trade up or trade down because, in all honesty, there’s a lot of depth at the other positions, and it might preclude teams from trading up.”

Gerry Dulac: and Twitter @gerrydulac.

Gerry Dulac:; twitter: @gerrydulac First Published May 5, 2014 1:03 PM

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