Colbert, Tomlin Address Draft

The Steelers held their annual pre-draft press conference on Monday and fielded questions from the media.

PITTSBURGH – The deadline for wide receiver Mike Wallace to sign with a team other than the Steelers passed last Friday without much fanfare.

But ESPN is now reporting that Wallace is considering a holdout rather than reporting to the Steelers and signing his $2.7-million tender offer, hoping to instead work out a long-term deal.

The Steelers want to make that happen as well.

"Our goal with Mike has been, and always will be, to sign him to a long-term contract," Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said Monday.

As for the report Wallace will hold out rather than sign his tender, head coach Mike Tomlin brushed it off.

"We're not worried about the reports," Tomlin said. "There were reports every day that he was going somewhere in restricted free agency, and he's still here. We'll deal with it day to day."

That attitude carried the Steelers through the free agency period when Wallace, considered one of the top players available this offseason, was on the market.

Wallace is coming off a season in which he caught 72 passes for 1,193 yards and eight touchdowns, earning his first Pro Bowl bid.

The Steelers felt their offer sheet, which guaranteed the team the right to match any offer Wallace might receive, gave them enough protection against him signing elsewhere.

"We said all along that we felt the decision would always be ours. It remains that way," Colbert said. "We want Mike to be here for the long haul. He knows that. Hopefully, at some point, we'll get something done."

Wallace has until June 15 to sign his tender offer. After that, the Steelers can cut it to $577,000.

Colbert said the unsettled situation with Wallace will not affect the team during the draft, which will be held Thursday through Saturday. The Steelers hold 10 selections, including the 24th pick in the first round.

"What goes on with our current team won't influence what we're going to do in the draft," Colbert said. "We're going to look at this to add more players to the mix, potentially."

But, Colbert did note that this year's draft is a bit less settled than usual.

"Usually, when you get into the second round, this thing will open up quickly and teams start going off in their own direction, based on need," Colbert said. "We're anticipating that happening a little bit more quickly than has happened in the past, only because the sure-fire, easy guys to pick, it's not as many as it has been in the past. I think you get beyond the first seven or 10 guys, everybody's going to be picking and hoping. We'll be one of those teams."

The Steelers haven't done a lot "picking and hoping" in the first round under Colbert, who has directed the team's drafts since 2000. That's because Colbert puts a high priority on acquiring good football players, regardless of position, in the early rounds.

"You shouldn't miss on a first rounder," Colbert said. "To me that's a given. The twos and threes, if you miss on one of those, it sets you back, and you'd better hope that you got lucky in a later round to compensate for that. The higher the pick, the better the chance of him being an impact player should be.

"If you're picking 24th, you'd better have 24 guys evaluated correctly. We've missed like everyone else has."

One boost for the Steelers in their draft preparation has been the return of running backs coach Kirby Wilson.

Wilson suffered severe burns in a house fire in the week leading up to the team's loss to Denver in the AFC playoffs. Tomlin said Wilson has been working with the coaching staff and scouts to evaluate players available in this draft.

"It's great to initially have him back in the building and working," said Tomlin, noting that Wilson will be at team headquarters for the draft. "He's got some flexibility this time of year from a draft preparation standpoint. With laptops and everything, that work can be done at home and has been. We're just starting the process of getting him back into this thing. It's been exciting so far."

(Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.)

To read the full transcript of the press conference, click here.


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