Kevin Colbert: OK, we're in the final stages of our draft meetings. We've still got a couple of positions we need to finalize things from a position standpoint by Wednesday. Thursday and Friday we'll hold our mock drafts, first with the coaches and scouts, then we'll bring the Rooneys in and bounce some ideas off of them and get their input as well. We're going through all the calls, contacting the other teams about trading up and trading down, seeing what players are available. It's a draft that's probably strong on the offensive side at tight end. Defensively, the secondary is strong, probably more so at corner than at safety. We're optimistic about finding a player or players at the 32nd spot. And we're real excited about having 10 picks, especially considering eight are in the first five rounds.
Q: the 10 picks too much or do they allow you to trade up or trade for future picks?
Colbert: The picks, obviously three of them are compensatory, so we can't trade them, but it does allow you to trade the others. We'll be open to use some of those extra picks for the possibility of moving, sure, if we think we can get a player we might not have a shot at later.
Q: Is there too much emphasis put on the first round?
Colbert: Most of the prognosticators and fans look at that because it's the guys they know. We're going to spend as much time on those late rounds as we do on the first round guys. Really, for us, there's not a lot of difference. But from a fan standpoint, I can understand that.
Q: Jerome Bettis was a big running back. Would you give stronger consideration to taking LenDale White because he's a big back?
Colbert: I don't want to get into specifics. With any player, we're going to go through all of their plusses and minuses and come up with a total of what we think he'll do as a player. Jerome Bettis was a big part of what this team's done here. Losing him on the field is one thing. Losing him in the locker room is another thing. That's a big loss. Whether we'll be able to address it or not, we'll have to wait and see.
Q: Going into the draft, are there certain areas on the team you'd like to come out of the draft having addressed?
Bill Cowher: Obviously you look at what we've lost in free agency as opposed to what we've signed, I think that has a lot to do with it. We're in pretty solid situations from that perspective. We lost (Antwaan) Randle El and we haven't signed anyone, but we're in pretty good shape at that position. Cedrick Wilson kind of developed toward the end of the season and Quincy Morgan is a guy we picked up and we anticipate that he'll be back. The development of Nate Washington, we feel pretty good about that as well. Kimo (von Oelhoffen) is a guy we lost. But again, we feel good about the development of Shaun Nua. And with Travis Kirschke and our re-signing of Brett Keisel, we feel like we have some pretty good depth there. Chris Hope was the other guy we lost. We signed Ryan Clark from Washington. But that's probably the one position given our status there, we only have three guys under contract at the safety position, that we'll have to address numbers wise. It's very important we get guys who can come in and be very competitive in camp with some of the players we have coming back. I think we'll do that. Certainly, on paper, that's the one position, defensive backs, were I think we only have seven guys under contract right now. So certainly we need to get some numbers there. But certainly the seven guys we've got there are seven pretty good players. It's a situation where I feel good about where we are and being able to add some players to compete at those positions.
Q: Out of your 22 starters in the Super Bowl, I think 19 were guys you drafted or brought in as rookie free agents. Could you talk about the team's level of committment to doing it that way?
Cowher: I think there's a great process where we get everyone's input. The scouts spend year-round putting a great deal of effort into it, so they kind of set the board for us. The coaches come in and get an opportunity to look at each player once the season is over. The process we have is to then put it on the board. It's an accumluation of viewpoints and it's been a time-tested process that we have. It helps us find the type of player that suits us. There's a good blend of conversations in that room.
Q: Is there a Steelers kind of guy?
Cowher: Steelers guys make the team and guys who don't make the team aren't Steelers guys. It's hard to say. Sometimes you have to take a guy with upside. That's the guy who has the potential to be a player. There's some value to doing that. Sometimes you take a little chance with that. But you have to look at production, character, dependability. They have to fit the system offensively and defensively. We take all of those things into account.
Q: What's it cost to move up in the draft?
Colbert: Some teams use the point value system, but we 've never subscribed to that method. I don't think you can lock yourself into making a deal or not making a deal. We try to go back over the draft history and see what it takes to move up. At 32 we're as low as you can get in the first round so it's going to take more to get anywhere. We went from 27 to 16 at get Troy (Polamalu) and it was a third and a fifth. Depending on how high you're going, it's usually going to take extra picks. Sometimes it's involved a third and even as high as a second, depending on how high you want to go. We don't put any points on it. We don't believe in that method.
Q: Why are there so many trades in the draft and none involving players.
Colbert: I think some of the rules hinder the trading of players because of the acceleration of the signing bonus. It stays with the team that trades the player. Football is a little different sport than others. Players are part of a unit offensively or defensively. There's a lot of learning that goes on. I think you're reluctant because of those two factors.
Q: Are you keeping everything close to the vest with other teams?
Colbert: Again, we've been in contact or will be in contact with every other team. Are they interested in moving up or down. When we made the deal for Troy, those conversations started mid-week. We told them we were interested in moving and that we'd contact them if our player is there. You don't really exchange any proposals at that point. That's very rare. Sometimes it happens, but it's risky when you don't know what you're trading for. But you'll make an offer and they'll make an offer. You just try to meet somewhere in between.
Q: Looking back now, are you surprised you were able to move up and get him?
Colbert: Not really. It worked out pretty good for them too, trading down and getting Larry Johnson.
Q: Are there any changes picking this low?
Colbert: No. Our preparation is the same. We just have to identify 32 players we'd take instead of 30 like we did last We'll have 32 guys that we would take. I'm confident there are 32 players we could take that would help this team.
Q: Do you put red marks against guys who are injured. Did that change at all last year when you took a guy in Heath Miller who was injured? Will that have an effect with a guy like LenDale White this year?
Colbert: Looking back at Heath, remember, Heath played with the sports hernia throughout the year. But he had the surgery in January. You could see where he was. We brought him back in late just to make sure the healing was going well. We knew and felt real good about his being ready. There were some unknowns because he hadn't run the 40, but you got a trust feeling.
Q: In LenDale White's case, he's injured but doesn't have to play right away. Does that make a difference?
Cowher: When you look at what we lost in free agency, and where we are with our team, I think we are in a position that we're able to take the best player. We're not picking out of need. Certainly you're going to address certain positions and there are certain things you want to come out of this draft with but I think we've positioned ourselves to not have to feel we have to reach for anybody. So, yeah, if there's a good football player there at 32, you don't want to bypass a good football player. We will not take a quarterback with the first pick, but I think any other position, we've kept ourselves pretty wide open. I think we're in good position to stay pretty open-minded.
Q: How much does a player's versatility factor into your grades?
Cowher: We don't look for those guys specifically but we certainly value them. I think when we put the board together, we take a lot of those things into account. That adds value on the board, but I don't think it's the reason why you draft them. It gives you options, so you look at those things.
Q: Is this a weekend you enjoy?
Colbert: I think it's enjoyable. It's kind of like game day. You prepare all year, you go into it with a certain plan and you have to adjust as the game unfolds. Personally I think it's exciting.
Cowher: I think it's great. I've said before it's like the first game of the year. It's very, very important, and not just the first day; I think the second day may be more important than the first day, because that's where you know the boards are all over the place around the league so you really aren't sure sometimes when you're looking at a guy and you're hoping he's going to be there, you're doing a little bit of guessing because you don't know where he is on another person's board. So it's very important. Look at last year on the second day, you look at a Shaun Nua and how important he is right now in his development. He's putting on weight and I think he did a lot of good things at the end of the year. Chris Kemoeatu is another guy who was taken late in the second day last year and has come in and given us quality depth on the offensive line. I think it's exciting.
Q: Are undrafted free agents harder to find after winning a Super Bowl?
Cowher: I've never won one before. We'll find out. But the one thing we have proven: If you're a free agent, you're going to get a look here. Free agents have made our football team. It's well-documented. I think that's the thing we try to sell to these guys. It's not how you got here; it's what you do when you're here.
Q: What's the roster number and how many rookies do you want to add?
Colbert: We have 70 players under contract right now and we have, I think, seven in Europe and Walter Young will bring us two exemptions, so at this point we could have as many as 88 players. I think that's the max, and I think I'm correct that Walter brings us two because he was on our practice squad last year.
Q: Do you want to get a quarterback this weekend?
Colbert: Well we usually go in with four so that would be a good assumption.
Q: Does Walter Young have an opportunity?
Cowher: I think so. Walter was having a real good camp last year and kind of got the hamstring that set him back. He's a big guy and he's had a very productive spring over in Europe. He's persistent. I'll say that about Walter. And he's a guy who can play a number of positions for you.
Q: What's the schedule for the off-season workouts?
Cowher: We have workouts going on right now. Minicamp will be in two weeks, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, so we will be working all day on Mother's Day. Then the coaching sessions start Wednesday. The rookies can stay right here because they're eligible to be with us from May 16 on. We're going to keep them here, have a little indoctrination on Tuesday and go right into that first coaching session on Wednesday. We will do the same thing the next four weeks with our 14 sessions. We'll visit the White House on June 2. They'll have seven weeks before they come to training camp.
Q: Do the rookie have to worry about their graduating class anymore?
Cowher: Yes. It always depends on their graduation. If he graduated, the date of the graduating class doesn't matter.
Q: Are you looking forward to the White House?
Cowher: Can't wait. That'll be great. I'm looking forward to it. I have no idea what the format is.
Q: Kevin, do you believe other teams use smokescreens through the media?
Colbert: I don't really pay attention to what other teams are saying publicly. I don't know what you can really say. I mean, there's no reason to tip your hand. You put that much time into it it's kind of crazy to give the information away. There's no advantage to doing that. You're not going to trick anyone into doing something. Everybody kind of knows what the deal is at this time of year. You have a lot of friends throughout out the league, but at this time of year you really don't have too many friends.
Q: Kevin, could you talk about Michael Robinson?
Colbert: I don't want to get into any players specifically.
Q: What do you value more that's helped you so much in the first round?
Cowher: We try to talk to players as much as possible. We utilized all that time in Indianapolis to get first interviews. We brought a lot of players back in there. We used all 30 visits. I don't think you can talk to players enough to get to know them. You should hit on your first-round pick. You really should. Character plays a very high part of what we want to bring in here and that's very important. It's not so much what you hear, it's the concrete evidence you have. I'm not going to pass judgment on any player until I've been with him.
Q: Kevin, is character part of your numbered rankings?
Colbert: We rank them athletically, production and talent-wise; and then we use a separate rating for character and medical. It's factored into their final rating but it's a separate evaluation.
Q: Bill, at what point do you tell the players last season is over?
Cowher: At the first meeting Saturday morning. It won't have to be impactful. These guys understand that there's a fine line. It's not like we haven't had success and experienced failure. We weren't the best football team in the NFL last year in my opinion. I thought we played the best at the right time of the year. There are a lot of really good football teams and if you don't play with the edge, and with that same sense of purpose and commitment, you're not going to be there and we are no exception to that.
Q: Are there any health issues?
Cowher: Andre Frazier and Quincy Morgan are coming off surgeries and they will not participate in the minicamp but will be ready for the coaching sessions. And then we had three surgeries in the off-season: Chidi Iwuoma (shoulder) won't be ready until training camp, although he may do some things at the end of May; Max Starks (knee) may be limited at minicamp and we'll see if he's ready to go at coaching sessions; and then Travis Kirschke (sports hernia) is OK and I think he's ready to go. We'll certainly look at Verron Haynes and Duce Staley just to monitor.
Q: How much will the three fourth-round picks help you?
Colbert: It's going to be nice to have three picks down there because at the end of the first day you look at what you did and you hope particular players will be there in the fourth round. To have those picks out of the gate is kind of exciting.