Colbert transcript:

Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert addressed the media at the Indianapolis combine on Thursday. With the help of the attending staff from, Jim Wexell was able to have his list of questions answered about the decision to put a transition tag on Max Starks. (Updated with Colbert's comments on assorted draft subjects.)

Could you explain why you put the transition tag on Max Starks?

We wanted to be able to protect our interest in him, and we've had good talks, encouraging talks with Max, and we think he wants to stay and we think we'll be able to work out a long-term deal. But in the meantime, the transition [tag] just gives us the opportunity to make a decision and it gives him an opportunity to shop. Really, both sides' interest is securing him with a long-term deal.

Why didn't you use the franchise tag?

When you use either tag, you have to be willing to accept that amount if the player signs the deal for one year. The difference was roughly $560,000, which could be two minimum-salaried players difference. If you franchise a guy like Max, he's probably not going to get an offer that would result in us getting two first-round picks, so realistically we get the same type of assurance.

Does this mean Starks will become a starter?

Any kind of playing time is up to Coach [Mike] Tomlin. But, again, anticipating that we may be without Alan Faneca, you know, Max was our sixth lineman this year so he's probably going to factor in more so than he did last year. It gives us an opportunity to make a decision along those lines and whether he plays or how much he plays, that'll be up to Coach Tomlin. But I think it shows the organization's commitment to keeping that player in the mix so that we have a decision to make. We'd rather have a decision to make with more guys than less.

What does this mean for Alan Faneca?

We talked to Alan previous to the season; we talked to Alan recently. The natural question is ‘Why didn't you tag Alan?' In talking with Alan and talking to Alan's representatives, he's probably going to get significant money on the open market and it's probably money that we're not going to be able to absorb. If we did absorb it, it might limit us in what else we can do in free agency, so you have to make a decision on which guy is more signable, and in our estimation that guy is Max.

Will tying up that money hurt you in free agency out of the blocks?

No. Again, you have to understand what it does to your current cap and we were able to absorb that at this point and we'll be able to still do some other things in free agency. It won't be as much as we'd like to do, unless of course we get a long-term deal done.

Colbert, of course, answered several questions about the draft. Here are his comments on areas of interest to Steelers fans:

* "This group of offensive tackles, it's the best group I've seen in 24 years. ... I think you can get a tackle in all three rounds."

* "[Running backs are] just like the tackles. I think you can get a running back, in the first three rounds, of good quality."

* "[Jonathan Stewart] is probably a little more well-rounded than [Darren] McFadden at this point. ... All these juniors, they just made this thing so much better from a running back standpoint."

* "I don't adhere to any of that 'Well, you can get another guy (at the position) in the second, third round.' If he's a special player, you take him."

* "Offensive linemen are probably the hardest to acclimate to the NFL, only because they have to become one of five. ... So to think an offensive lineman can come in and have an immediate impact is a bit of a stretch."

* "Ideally, everyone wants the biggest, tallest, best player they can get, and Ben [Roethlisberger] is a tall quarterback so he'd like to have a receiver who's on the same plane as he is, and you understand that. But you can't just make a guy a more valuable prospect than he is just because he's 6-3 or 6-4. Again, if you can find a great receiver who's taller, super. But in the meantime you'd better take the best prospect you can get."

* "If you trade down, as deep as this draft is, you're probably going to benefit."

* "It was an interesting career for Jeff [Otah], because coming out as a JC you heard about him as a junior and you paid attention to him, and his senior year he continued to get better. Jeff's an interesting kid that probably hasn't played his best football yet. ... There's probably a lot of upside left in him."

* "We live by the credo that 80 percent of the evaluation happens from August to December when they play."

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