Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin met the media for their annual pre draft press conference and below is the audio in case you missed it. I will be adding the key talking points covered during their talk after I go back through the audio, so make sure to check back throughout the day.
Colbert opens by saying that they weren\’t good enough last year as their 8-8 indicated. The talent that they assembled was an 8-8 team.
Colbert recapped all of the offseason moves and said that they are happy they retained restricted free agents wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and Steve McLendon.
Colbert said that the decision to briong back William Gay and Matt Spaeth was due to familiarity and that they were both responsible for past success. They anticipated the Keenan Lewis situation at cornerback and felt getting a player like Gay back was very important, because he was a nice fit and familiar with the packages. As far as Spaeth and David Johnson go, it was real important to get that depth back due to the injury suffered by Heath Miller. Colbert says that they will not know where Miller is until later on in the year.
Colbert said that the roster is currently at 65 players and that they will be adding 25 players over the weekend via the draft and undrafted free agents.
Colbert says that they will be drafting from a pool of 150 players that they have identified. Realistically there are 6-8 guys that he would deem special players, according to Colbert. Round two through three are potential starts and after that they will be looking to add depth.
Colbert says that the class of tight ends, interior linemen and traditional 3-4 defensive ends is not deep this year.
Colbert says you always have to have production from picks one, two and three. When you don\’t, you have a hole. That will be the expectations of whoever they end up with at one. When they play and how much they play will be decided by Tomlin. Colbert doesn\’t envision any player coming in year one and being an impact. There\’s always a growing process.
Sean Spence continues to attack his rehab and Tomlin says that there is no real update on his progress. They understand that it is a process with him, but his demeanor and availability has been good.
They are excited to have David DeCastro back with a year underneath his belt. He is healthy, but hopefully he grew and learned from the time that he wasn\’t on the field.
As far as draft day goes, Colbert says that he doubts that they will move up. The picks that they have the better.
There will be a good player at 17 per Colbert. Colbert insist that they are open, however, to moving up or down. There is nice quality in rounds two through four, according to Colbert.
All injured players are progressing at different stages. Some will be available for OTA\’s, others mini-camp, while others not until training camp. All are proceeding according to plan. No surprises both positively or negatively, according to Tomlin.
Tomlin thinks the secondary class is deep this year due to the amount of spread offenses you are seeing in college right now. The number of sub packages being run to help defend against that, lends to the numbers.
Tomlin says they look at medical and character issues like they always have and they deal with them on a case-by-case basis. We give at all their due diligence.
Its not really scientific. We try to add as many good players that we can, according to Colbert. There is going to be turnover every year. If he had the same team that we had last year, it would be silly to expect different results. Colbert says that they can be judged in February whether or not they got the job done.
All along, Colbert knew the decision to keep Sanders was theirs and theirs alone. Colbert said maybe they can work out a long-term extension with Sanders at some point.
Colbert said the intentions all along was to sign McLendon to an extension. When he visited with the Packers, they had an easy negotiations with his agent because McLendon wanted to stay in Pittsburgh. Sometimes players have to take those trips to confirm interest of other teams, according to Colbert. Colbert said they had planned on talking with McLendon about an extension later in the summer.
Colbert said there is still a chance that they could sign a free agent down the road depending on how the draft goes. He goes on to say that other teams will always flush some veteran players out as well, and that they have to be ready to add one of those if they can and think that player can help the team. As far as adding another running back, Tomlin said it all depends on how the draft goes, but that they are not opposed to adding any players at any position via several different ways.
Colbert says that the wide receiver class is a good group. There are some big ones, some small ones and some return capable ones. It\’s a nice variety.
When they try to figure out the character of a player, Colbert says that it starts with the college reports and his followed up with personal interviews and background checks. Colbert says that he and Tomlin did a lot of follow-up work this year by trying to be proactive in meeting the family of the players. Tomlin reportedly started doing this three years ago. After they draft players, they try to bring families in to get to know the kids better. Sometimes you get the opportunity to do that at a pro day and sometimes you don\’t.
Tomlin reiterated that there really isn\’t any new news as far as Miller and his rehab. Adding Spaeth and Johnson during the offseason helps insulate the position. They will let the draft come to them at that position and others because of that.
Colbert doesn\’t see this draft as being any more critical than any of others. He admits that they did have a few more departures than usual, but they still only have eight picks. Every year they expect to get the right seven or eight players in the draft. When they don\’t, Colbert said that it hurts. Colbert said that he never expects any draft picks coming in to be immediate impact players their rookie season. If they lined up today with what they have, they\’ll have a chance. They do, however, want to continue to add to that and let those players develop at their own pace. If they come in exceed that expectation the way that Maurkice Pouncey or Casey Hampton did, that is great. They\’ve had great players that had to sit and learn on the other hand and he expects this group to be like that. If they exceed that, that\’s a bonus.
As far as the salary cap goes, Colbert says you always want a cushion heading into the season because injuries always factor into things. In the past, they used to plan on four to six players that they would lose to injury for the season. The past couple of seasons, however, they have exceeded that. The only way they can help guard against that is to get healthy players during the draft. They always have to be ready from a cap standpoint and you always have to have reserves in the bank to accommodate for that.
Tomlin said that Marus Gilbert is left tackle capable just like Mike Adams. They will use the spring and the summer to sort out who will play what side
Colbert said that they haven\’t shut the door completely on players such as Hampton and Max Starks returning. at this point, everything depends on how they feel coming out of the draft. He thinks those players would prefer to wait as well because they could wind up signing and end up behind a first round draft pick. They will keep those kind of players in mind, according to Colbert.