Kevin Colbert: Steelers unlikely to make a move before NFL draft
April 23, 2013 12:00 PM
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert discuss their options Monday on the upcoming NFL draft during a new conference on the South Side.
By Gerry Dulac Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Steelers have had a history of trading up to draft players who they felt could be special contributors, if not stars, on their team.
That was the case when they moved up in the first round Troy Polamalu and Santonio Holmes.
And, with any number of holes at positions that seemingly scream for an impact player, such a practice would appear to be likely, if not expected, when the NFL draft commences Thursday.
Not so, said general manager Kevin Colbert.
After an offseason in which they have already lost five starters and likely will part ways with at least two more, the Steelers will need every one of their eight draft choices to help replace those players.
Colbert said they cannot afford to trade one away in order to move up from the 17th overall spot they occupy in the draft.
"I doubt we'll move up," Colbert said. "The more picks we have, the better, in this draft particularly. This draft in particular, there's nice quality available in [rounds] two through four as well."
The NFL draft does not have the usual number of marquee players at the top of the first round, but Colbert believes there is enough talent in the second and third rounds that the Steelers expect to find starters in those rounds.
But he also said the Steelers will get a "quality player" when it's their turn to pick in the first round. But he and coach Mike Tomlin do not think that player needs to come in and be an immediate contributor.
"Quite honestly, I don't envision anyone coming in and being an impact player in year one, I never do," Colbert said at a pre-draft news conference Monday with Tomlin at the team's South Side facility. "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.
What's more, they are not expected to renew the contracts of Hampton and left tackle Max Starks, even though Colbert said the Steelers have not ruled out the possibility.
The only free-agent additions the Steelers have 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. He has made that assertion several times since the start of free agency.
"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 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 a year ago -- 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 after a drunken-driving episode in which police chased him through the South Side. But he remains with the team. Ta'amu had a drunken-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 the NFL combine a year ago 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-rounded picture."