Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said today it is unlikely the team will move up in the first round of the National Football League draft because they have only eight draft picks and will need them to replace the players they've already lost in the offseason.
Colbert also reiterated what he said during the NFL owners meetings last month -- that it is not imperative that the player whom the Steelers select with the 17th overall pick be an immediate contributor.
Because the NFL draft does not have the usual number of marquee players at the top of the first round, Colbert believes the Steelers will get a "quality player" when the first round of the three-day draft commences Thursday night.
"I doubt we'll move up," Colbert said during a pre-draft news conference with Coach Mike Tomlin at the team's South Side facility. "The more picks we have, the better, in this draft particularly. This draft in particular, there's nice quality available [rounds] two through four as well."
The Steelers have needs at many positions, including wide receiver, running back, outside linebacker, inside linebacker and safety.
And Colbert said the players drafted on the first three rounds will be viewed as projected starters for the Steelers at some point.
But none of those players have to come in and play immediately, Colbert said.
"Quite honestly, I don't envision anyone coming in and being an impact player in year one, I never do," Colbert said. "We want to let the players progress at their own pace. Now, if they exceed that, like a [Maurkice] Pouncey or a [Casey] Hampton, great."
The Steelers lost three starters in free agency -- wide receiver Mike Wallace, running back Rashard Mendenhall and cornerback Keenan Lewis. They also terminated the contracts of two other starters -- former five-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker James Harrison and guard Willie Colon.
The only free-agent additions they've made so far are to sign quarterback Bruce Gradkowski and bring back two former players -- tight end Matt Spaeth and cornerback William Gay. All are considered backups.
But Colbert has not backed down from his assertion that the Steelers are losing players from an 8-8 team, not from a Super Bowl winner.
"The talent we had assembled was an 8-8 team; any other explanation other than that is incorrect," Colbert said. "It was our plan to upgrade our talent. If we have the same team as last year, it would be silly not to expect the same results. You'll be able to judge us in February whether we did our job or not."
Colbert said the Steelers have spent more time this year meeting with the families of prospective draft choices in an attempt to learn more about their character and off-field behavior. Colbert said it is a program Tomlin instituted three years ago.
That is a result of the Steelers having off-field issues with two draft choices from last year -- running back Chris Rainey and nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu.
Rainey, a fifth-round pick, was dismissed from the team after he was arrested and charged with simple battery following an altercation with his girlfriend. Rainey already had a charge of aggravated stalking against him from when he was played at Florida.
Ta'amau, a fourth-round pick, was charged with a number of offenses following an drunk-driving episode in which police chased him through the South Side. However, he remains with the team. Ta'amu had a drunk-driving offense against him when he played at Washington.
In addition to Rainey and Ta'amau, the Steelers admittedly took a risk with second-round pick Mike Adams, who tested for marijuana at last year's NFL combine then lied about it to NFL personnel.
"We tried to be a little more pro-active in meeting with their families ??? to get to know the kids we drafted," Colbert said.
"It helps us develop a more complete picture of who and what he is and, more important, what he's capable of being," Tomlin said. "It helps us paint that well-round picture."
Gerry Dulac: firstname.lastname@example.org; twitter: @gerrydulac
Gerry Dulac: email@example.com; twitter: @gerrydulac First Published April 22, 2013 5:45 PM