Steelers explore trading up

PITTSBURGH – They go through the formality of talking draft trade every year, but this year Kevin Colbert has the look in his eye.

The director of football operations has the willingness to trade up, a cache of draft picks to do so, and the blessing of his boss to pursue the very best fit for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"We will not take a quarterback with the first pick," said Coach Bill Cowher. "But I think at every other position we've kept ourselves pretty wide open. I think we're in good position to stay pretty open-minded."

And with 10 draft picks, the Steelers can trade to move into even better position. That was the buzz around the team's headquarters Monday. The Steelers have 10 picks but don't have 10 openings, so they're expected to attempt to trade up in the first round.

"We'll be open to use some of those extra picks for the possibility of moving, sure," said Colbert.

Colbert has a reputation as a wheeler-dealer on draft day. He made the organization's first first-round trade-up in 2003 to draft Troy Polamalu, and in 2001 Colbert traded down in the first round to draft Casey Hampton and then traded up in the second round to draft Kendrell Bell.

Those players were needs, and if the Steelers have a need this weekend it might be at safety.

"We only have three guys under contract at the safety position," said Cowher.

The Steelers' highest-ranked visitors this month have been safeties. They brought Donte Whitner, Jason Allen, Darnell Bing, Daniel Bullocks and Ko Simpson to the South Side, and all are considered mid-first to second-round prospects. Allen and Whitner are the more attractive of the bunch because both could play cornerback if needed. Allen is a better cornerback, while Whitner is a better safety.

Another potential trade-up target is running back LenDale White. The Steelers also brought in a couple of first-round backfield prospects – Laurence Maroney and Joseph Addai – this month and only recently brought in White. He'd previously been considered too rich for their draft position, but White suffered a hamstring tear while working on a Cybex machine at the combine and interest in him around the league is perceived to be on the wane.

The 240-pound White fits the Steelers' offense and could be afforded time to allow his injury to heal. The Steelers gave White an MRI last week and believe the injury is minor. They also came away impressed with his football intelligence, and have always admired his ability to run between the tackles and pass-block on third down.

Colbert said he doesn't subscribe to the popular points system when assessing trade value. "We try to go back over the draft history and see what it takes to move up," he said. "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."

The Steelers were awarded two compensatory picks in the fourth round and another in the fifth round this year, but those picks can't be traded.

If the Steelers don't trade up, Colbert said "I'm confident there are 32 players we could take that would help this team."

The Steelers will wrap up preparations Thursday and Friday with mock drafts. "Then we'll bring the Rooneys in and bounce some ideas off of them and get their input," Colbert said.

"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."

If not sooner.

NOTES – Colbert said the team will add a quarterback at some point this weekend. … The Steelers will visit the White House on June 2. … The Steelers will hold their minicamp May 13-15 and will begin four weeks of coaching sessions (14) on May 17. The team will work until June 8. … Chidi Iwuoma underwent shoulder surgery and won't practice until training camp. Andre Frazier and Quincy Morgan are coming off surgery and will miss minicamp, but are expected to return for coaching sessions. Max Starks (knee) and Travis Kirschke (sports hernia) also had off-season surgery, but only Starks may miss some minicamp work.

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