Steelers let draft-day intentions slip

The Steelers' top decision-makers held their annual pre-draft press conference today. Read what Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin had to say about this coming weekend's NFL draft.

PITTSBURGH – Kevin Colbert wants to trade down from the first round of the draft this weekend in order to add to the team's six picks.

The Steelers' director of football operations said it twice at Monday's pre-draft press conference.

"Trading up in the first round is not a likely scenario," Colbert said. "Trading down is definitely an inviting option because there are a lot of players in rounds two, three, four that could help this team."

Colbert was asked if he could identify 23 first-tier players. Last year he answered a similar question with a quick yes. This year he had to be asked twice before he answered yes – sort of.

"We're looking for 23 because we will have to pick if we don't trade out," he said. "We've got to have 23 that we're happy with. And we will."

MAX RELIEF

Colbert said he hoped to work out a long-term deal with offensive tackle Max Starks, who just signed a one-year tender that will pay him $6.9 million.

"It would give us salary-cap relief," Colbert said. "It's our goal and I know it's his goal and (agent) Eugene Parker's as well, so we're going to keep those talks alive because there are benefits for everybody involved."

Where would Starks play? Coach Mike Tomlin was asked three times about moving Willie Colon before granting a bit of information. He said that "yes" Colon will play some guard this spring. Tomlin would not even say whether he has a timetable for thinking about moving Colon to one of the guard spots.

Tomlin's non-response smacked of a smokescreen about his tackle position, but the Steelers still need at least one tackle, since Starks, Marvel Smith and Trai Essex are in their final contract years.

There's doubt within the organization that the team will attempt to extend the contract of Smith. Although Smith participated in yesterday's first official spring workout, he's coming off back surgery and turns 30 on August 6.

If the Steelers need two tackles, this would be the year to get them.

"Offensive tackle is extremely deep with talented guys," Colbert said. "And a lot of the guys have position flexibility. It's unusual you have this many guys that have played with that much flexibility at the level they've played it at, so that's one position that's very deep. Running backs are unusually deep as well, and we think the corners are a nice group as well."

GREATER NEED ON D-LINE?

The defensive line performed just as poorly as the offensive line last season after Aaron Smith tore a biceps muscle early in December. Smith said all of his strength has returned and that he could practice at the first minicamp (first weekend in May), but won't rush.

Even with Smith, the defensive line is aging. The top five players will be at least 30 years old in September, and the one young prospect, Ryan McBean, has been on crutches for over a month with a stress fracture in his foot. This weekend the Steelers will be looking at a thin defensive line draft crop, and according to a source they don't like any of the potential first-rounders.

"We're looking for a unique body type and there are some of those guys," Tomlin said.

The Steelers like a unique combination of length, size and speed when drafting 3-4 defensive ends. Their candidates are Dre Moore, Kendall Langford, Jason Jones and Red Bryant in rounds two through four. Tomlin, in fact, stopped Charlie Batch in the hallway to ask about Jones, who played at Batch's Eastern Michigan University. Batch said he saw Jones play against Pitt.

How did he look?

"Nobody looks good when you lose 27-3," Batch said.


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