Colbert Speaks, A Nation Listens

SCI's Jim Wexell analyzes Kevin Colbert's comments, previews the Shrine Game, drops some info about whom the Steelers like and don't like in the upcoming draft.

Kevin Colbert held a press conference for a select group of writers yesterday. I wasn't fortunate enough to have been selected, but that's not about to deter me from spreading the gospel of the team. That's why I went to Bob Labriola's website to steal the following Colbert quotes and make the ensuing commentary:

* "I don't want to say we're close. I know Art (Rooney II) used the term ‘frustrated.' I'm going with ‘disappointed.' I'm disappointed in myself that those 61 were 8-8. Like I said, I'm at the head of the class."

Comment: Head of the class, with class.

* "If we don't change 8-8, if we don't change the roster that produced 8-8, we'd be silly to expect a better result if we have the same group of guys … We're not married to any of these guys."

Comment: Seems to be directed toward the free agents-to-be and the older guys making a lot of money, such as James Harrison. At roughly $12 million over the cap, cutting the soon-to-be 35-year-old would pare $5.1 million off that number. And not adding free-agent CB Keenan Lewis to that number would leave them with Ike Taylor, Cortez Allen, Curtis Brown, Josh Victorian and the newly signed Justin King at the position. I suppose that's feasible, particularly if they draft Johnthan Banks or Xavier Rhodes in the first round.

* "In my mind when you're 8-8, I don't think we have too many franchise players."

Comment: No one expected the Steelers to franchise any of their free agents anyway.

* "I think that we've signed significant players here and there (in free agency). It's been few and far between, so we have to be open to that, but at what cost?"

Comment: As per the norm, they can't afford to bring in anyone who'll make a difference, or even be known by the casual fan. And it brings up this question: How were they able to afford a top-tier talent such as Jeff Hartings in 2001? I guess if they miss the playoffs two MORE years maybe we'll find out.

* The running backs "didn't produce like we had anticipated them producing."

Comment: So in the chicken or the egg argument, lean to the Steelers ranking RB Eddie Lacy ahead of OG Chance Warmack in this draft.

* Anytime the team waives a player for a character indiscretion, it is because "that player has lost the trust of the organization."

Comment: Only soul-sucking corporations set hard and fast rules on behavior in order to rise above thoughtless charges of "hypocrisy" by lazy sportswriters. Or in other words, the Steelers feel they know both Chris Rainey and Alameda Ta'amu personally and believe one was worth keeping and the other wasn't.

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The main practices for the East-West Shrine Game have concluded, and after following reports from the draft media in attendance I've decided to focus on the following players Saturday (official measurables in parenthesis):

* Pitt running back Ray Graham (5-9.3, 192) seems to be the consensus top back. He received commendations for chucking the knee brace that reportedly held him back this season.

* Penn State linebacker Gerald Hodges (6-1.1, 239) didn't receive much media attention this week, but he still interests me, as does every Penn State linebacker.

* Vanderbilt running back Zac Stacy (5-8.3, 215) is being lauded as an inside-outside threat with good vision. And I love those short and squat backs anyway.

* UConn linebacker Sio Moore (6-0.6, 240) is being called an outside linebacker, but would project inside with the Steelers. I'm willing to make that projection because Moore was such an effective and instinctive player this season.

* James Madison guard Earl Watford (6-3.6, 300) is being hailed as the top guard this week, and of course that will likely be an opening in Pittsburgh in a few months.

* Miami cornerback Brandon McGee (5-10.6, 195) might just be the best player in this game, according to the advance media "scouts."

* Iowa cornerback Micah Hyde (5-11.5, 196) is the best player if McGee is not, if we are to believe the pre-game hype.

* Nevada free safety Duke Williams (5-10.6, 203) has received mixed reviews, and that makes sense to me since in the only Nevada game I watched this past season, the New Mexico Bowl, the Nevada deep middle was riddled by the Arizona passing attack – until Williams made an outstanding fourth-quarter interception.

* South Carolina linebacker Devonte Holloman (6-1.4, 246) is also receiving mixed reviews this week, and that surprises me because he was so very effective as a linebacker-safety hybrid this past season.

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Two more Shrine Game names worth mentioning. One has been invited to play there and the other has not:

* Christine Michael is a 5-9.6, 221-pound running back who sat the bench much of the season for Texas A&M, but is showing Alfred Morris-like tendencies this week – as he had at A&M prior to the arrival of coach Kevin Sumlin.

For whatever reason, Sumlin chose not to use Michael much, even when he was healthy, so I'm mistrusting all of the talent I'm about to see Saturday. If a guy who turned a program around in one season did so without using a player with Michael's pro-level skills, I'm sure there were good reasons.

* California (Pa.) has Kush (center Eric) in the game, but not free safety Rontez Miles, a player in whom the Steelers are showing a good deal of interest, according to a source.

Miles is a two-time PSAC West Defensive Player of the Year after intercepting 9 passes in the last two seasons combined and leading the D-2 school last season with 75 tackles.

Cal lists Miles at 6-1, 210, but has him at 5-11.5, 197 (4.54 40) and reported that Miles – of nearby Woodland Hills High School – was "recruited by several SEC teams" but enrolled at Kent State to play with his step brother. He left Kent, the site reports, because of "poor grades and distractions," but it's believed Miles left because his brother was kicked off the team.

I've been told the Steelers like his size, speed, aggressiveness and character, and that he could be a late-round draft pick.

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Here's another draft nugget, and I heard it last week, so please don't tie it in with yesterday's events: The Steelers would pass on linebacker Manti Te'o if he were to fall to pick 17.

Now, my information could have something to do with how poorly Te'o played in the national championship game, and that performance may have had something to do with the nonsensical story which came out yesterday about his dead girlfriend being an imaginary dead girlfriend.

While I didn't care about the dead-girlfriend story when Brent Musberger babbled on incessantly about it three months ago, I don't care about it now. All I really care about is that Te'o's performance against Alabama mirrored what I saw in his poor performance against Pitt.

At the time, the Pitt game seemed to be an aberration for Te'o. But after the more recent poor performance, I – and the Steelers – don't feel he's worthy of the 17th pick.

Too bad, because I still like his leadership – imaginary dead girlfriend or not.

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