USA TODAY Sports
Steelers GM Kevin Colbert on evaluating players and previewing the off-season.
On Steelers scout Bill Nunn being inducted into Black College Hall of Fame...
"It matters greatly. I have been fortunate of getting to talk to Bill Nunn everyday and Bill is a great link to Steelers history. Bill Nunn was part of the great teams they built in the 70's and still helps us to this day. We still value him and have him in place and we try to continue the traditions of Steelers football."
How do you avoid... (inaudible)
"As the evaluation process is unfolding we've come to more of a group mentality. When Bill and the Steelers and other teams were putting teams together in the late 60's and 70's, the draft was in January and really they relied a lot on individual information they collected. As its evolved we've come to more of a group mentality as far as gathering the information, but not so much how you use the information and how you evaluate. That's still unique to individual organizations. "
With more 3-4 teams, how does it affect your ability to draft players?
"We pick a team up, we lose a team as far as (who uses the) 3-4. I think we're still floating around 14. There's only so many players who go around, who fit that position. It's about a 50-50 split. We have to evaluate for our own individual wants and needs."
On hiring Danny Smith as Special Teams Coordinator...
"Coach Tomlin and I identified Danny through his own process. He's known Danny and
worked against him. I had the honor of working 2 seasons in Detroit when he was our TE coach. He's a Pittsburgh guy. There's alot of value in having Pittsburgh people join then organization. There's a lot of tradition that guy like Danny Smith and TdodHaley who understand and accept and want to be a big part of that."
On Manti Te'O...
"I won't discuss any individual player... in any interview we want to learn about that player. We think we know
something about them but until we speak to a player one on one and have the opportunity to ask questions we need to ask, we still don't know the player. Sometimes it takes 15 min, sometimes it takes 3 or 4 visits. It just depends how comfortable we feel with the information."
Is there some value in seeing how kid handles media?
"Yeah, sometimes if we haven't spoken to a player, I will actually look for his information via the internet, maybe some interviews they have done during their college days. It's a good starting point if we haven't seen or spoken to a player, which we haven't to this point, except for a few at the senior bowl. So even after we visit with a player, we may want to further examine to know how he deals with the media, because that's going to be a big part of how he's going to be able to perform as a professional football player."
On interactions with new Browns' owner Jimmy Haslam...
"I want some of Jimmy's secrets because I think he's done pretty well in the business world. Jim and I, I think we were together for three years, I believe that was the time frame. He would fly in on the weekends for our games. He made a lot of our away games as well. What I noticed about Jim right away was his passion for the game of football, and at that time, the Pittsburgh Steelers. I am sure he has taken that same mindset to Cleveland. I always thought that Jim was very knowledgeable about football, particularly the SEC and the University of Tennessee, because he got to see those guys. He was just always very inquisitive as to what we were thinking. Again, I was inquisitive as to what he was thinking also because of his success.We just really talked in general about players he may have seen that weekend or players that I had visited with when I was out visiting colleges. Really, it wasn't into so much the philosophies or anything like that, because we really didn't have time."
On new Browns D-Coordinator Ray Horton..
"Ray Horton is a very intelligent, organized demanding coach. I know the Browns will be prepared defensively very well. Ray is very thorough, he's respected because he played the game and coached the game and he's been successful at both."
Are you a transition team?
"I don't want to say transition because that means you're going to accept anything less than a super bowl. Obviously change has to occur over time and you hope that you prepared and drafted or signed free agents to deal with that change as it occurs. It's inevitable. We just have to be prepared to deal with it and that's what this whole process is about."
Do you make changes to keep up with the Ravens?
"No. We never prepare for a team within our division, within our conference or within the NFL. We just try to make the Steelers as good as they can possibly be. We understand the competition in our division is great. I've always stated it is as competitive a division in the NFL, and I think that holds up when you see the team's records against opponents outside our division. It's competitive. We know that. But we are only going to prepare for what we think - our preparation is just going to be to make us as good as possible."
When do you start talking to your free agents?
"We won't discuss any free agency moves with our own players, and obviously, we can't talk to other players until after March 12. We are not going to address anything from a salary cap compliance or future signings until we get back from the combine. Once you get back from the combine, you've had your opportunity to do free agency evaluations, you've had the opportunity to take this step in the process, which is huge, because as we come out of this, we will have some players that we may upgrade or downgrade based on performance, based on medical or the character information we gather."
Is this most challenging salary-cap year?
"No its really not unique. It's been ongoing. When you have some success, you've probably had good players, some of them have probably been a little bit older and as I stated earlier, they're going to move on. We have to be prepared, both from a salary cap standpoint and from a talent standpoint to make those changes. But it's really not any more sophisticated than previous years."
Will Johnson's performance in his first season in the NFL?
"Will Johnson did a great job for us. We signed Will out of the West Virginia Pro Day last year as a free agent, a fullback candidate and, quite honestly, he exceeded our expectations. We didn't know what he was going to be able to do because he really didn't do much of what we asked him to do at West Virginia. He was more of backside-move, kind of tight end. In our situation, he became a traditional fullback and did a great job, so we're hoping he can continue it. Teams were not really looking at Johnson and then he got noticed at the West Virginia Pro Day. Can his story serve as a message to other players that they don't have to be big-name players, but just show their skills when the time is right. Yeah, I think it was good fortune for both Will and us."
Does the Read-Option have a future?
"It obviously has been successful, where it will go and how successful it will be I cant say. Systems come and go and success of a system will dictate changes defensively. It may fade away, it may not, you can't really trend where it will stick. All I know is, it was successful this year. If we have to play a team that utilizes that system, we have to be
prepared for it. But you don't necessarily draft, at least we wont, to play a particular scheme."
Can you win without an "enforcer" on defense?
"I believe you can win as long as that player plays within the rules. Everybody understands the rules, everybody should accept it. It takes some adjustment, no question. We have to have cooperation from the colleges, which we are starting to see. It really has to start at youth level. We have to emphasize to youth coaches, junior high coaches, the safe way to play football and we have to be the example and we have a great stage to do that.."
Is there a difference in philosophy about whether to draft a guy who's played on the left side and move him to the right side, like you did with Mike Adams?
"You like to have position-flexibility. If a guy has played exclusively on the left, you have to be concerned. Can he make the transition to right tackle, physically? And it's a new technique that he's going to have to learn. You won't know until you try it. Marcus Gilbert, he played both tackles in college. Mike Adams was mostly a left tackle. He played some right tackle in some different situations, the Senior Bowl as well. So, you got to see maybe some possibilities and those are the things you find out in training camp. Most offensive linemen, you want them to be able to have position flexibility. Maurkice Pouncey, who's an All-Pro center for us, started a couple games at guard this year. He had played guard as a red-shirt freshman. They have it in their background. Most offensive linemen, you want them to be able to fluctuate and play multiple positions."
Is there any type of physical trait you look for in these linemen?
"You're looking for a certain amount of athleticism, size and intelligence. If they have those three elements they should be able to adjust to really any position, save center because that's a little unique for a tackle to be able to play center because his body type usually doesn't match up."
Are 40-yard dash times overblown?
"I think the 40, again, our evaluations are really done August through January, with the reviewing of the video tape. Sometimes we know a player's 40, sometimes we do not. If we get a 40 and he runs great and we like him as a player, that's awesome. If he runs great and he's not a good player, it doesn't matter. If he's a good player and doesn't run good, it's probably not going to matter a lot. I always talk about Heath Miller who we drafted with the 31st pick of the first round. Heath never worked out. He had a sports hernia surgery and to this day I couldn't tell you what Heath Miller ran in the 40 and quite honestly, it doesn't matter."