On Monday, May 5, Pittsburgh Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin sat down before the press to outline their plans and ideas for the upcoming 2014 NFL Draft. One of the most frequent topics was related to the Steelers' plans to improve their defense. Colbert and Tomlin gave specific talking points as to how they see the team as it currently stands and how they intend on making moves in the draft. While press conferences ahead of the draft are often considered to have the potential to be a smoke screen to other teams, Colbert and Tomlin seemed clear on one point - that they don't intend to move up in the draft.
Colbert began the press conference by outlining what the organization sees in the current team post-free agency and with the addition of several new faces, including Lance Moore and Cam Thomas. "We went into the offseason with a specific plan in mind," Colbert said. "We were happy with the way it did [unfold]." Extensions were completed with tight end Heath Miller and safety Troy Polamalu as well as a one-year extension with Jason Worilds. Additionally, the Steelers kept Will Allen, long snapper Greg Warren and exercised an option on Cameron Heyward. The Steelers brought in Mike Mitchell, LeGarrette Blount, Moore and Thomas, Arthur Moats, Brice McCain, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Adam Podlesh. "We lost a few guys along the way, maybe with some character issues or medical issues, or just a reevaluation or a closer look, but I think we probably gained just as many guys on the flipside of that with guys whose character may have been a little bit better than we thought..."
As for making free agency decisions, Colbert agreed that the organization had a plan put in place to replace players lost by knowing what positions must be filled. "You go into [free agency] with a plan we would like to be able to keep a wide receiver, a running back, but if we don't then who are our options on the outside?" Colbert said that the Steelers kept track of the entire market, searching for individuals who would not only be interested in joining the team but who the organization would be able to offer a contract.
With the 2014 NFL Draft quickly at hand, questions about how the Steelers would set up their draft board were plenty. As scouting and player visits have ended (as of April 28), Colbert and Tomlin already have a handle on who they will be keeping a close eye on. The 2014 draft is one of a ton of depth at most positions, and Colbert echoed the sentiment by saying, "This is the best group that I've seen in my 30 years doing this." Most insiders believe that the Steelers will not only go after a cornerback but also a wide receiver early in the draft. Colbert may have hinted at where the most interest lay for the organization by pointing out that they believe running backs, receivers, cornerbacks, outside linebackers and defensive linemen appear to be the deepest groups to enter the mix. "There is going to be a lot of good players...so we better come up with some good guys."
Tomlin pointed out that the draft process has been determined and that much of that was as a result of the time that teams had to take a look at college prospects. He and Colbert also agreed that how they graded players was not based on any formula outside of the Steelers organization. "It (made) for an interesting evaluation and discussion," said Tomlin. "The work is so specialized now in college football...so it generated a lot of opportunity for discussion and forecasting (during) evaluations." Tomlin said, "And we got an opportunity [due to the draft being pushed into May] to probably lay more eyes on more guys throughout the process...I know I probably got to more pro days this year that I have in the past." Colbert agreed, "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 nice options available to use that in years past we hadn't."
When asked about the trade value chart used by many teams in the NFL, Colbert told the media that the Steelers don't use it to formulate their draft board. "We don't use it for our purposes, we do it to try to see what the other team is thinking." It's a strategy often used in the league to try to get into the heads of other organizations to see if they will make a move for a player any other team may have shown interest in as well, including the Steelers.
To put the question of whether the Steelers will trade up in the draft, Colbert was clear. "We won't be trading up because we can't. We traded away our third-round pick [from the 2014 Draft] last year, and in order to move up in the first round, you usually would have to include that in the package." Colbert explained that due to a supplemental pick in the third round that cannot be traded, the Steelers won't move up, but could trade down if they felt a player might be available.