Colbert, the Steelers' director of football operations, was asked by a local writer whether he needs to "seriously address" the team's secondary.">
Colbert, the Steelers' director of football operations, was asked by a local writer whether he needs to "seriously address" the team's secondary.">

Steelers happy with defensive backs?

<b>PITTSBURGH:</b> The headline promised more -- "Steelers Happy with Defensive Backs" -- than the story delivered, but Kevin Colbert's answer was surprising nonetheless.<br><br> Colbert, the Steelers' director of football operations, was asked by a local writer whether he needs to "seriously address" the team's secondary.

"I don't think so," said Colbert, who went on to explain there were other factors involved with the statistical decline of the pass defense, and that he didn't want to "single out a player or group."

Team guy, sure. Or maybe Colbert is opening up the possibility - the previously unthinkable possibility - that he might draft a player from a position other than defensive back two months from now.

Ludicrous, you say, but a similar thought sent a shudder through my own self just the other day. The thought was simple enough: Dave Ragone.

Yeah, that's the thought. Heck, it's a concept. Let me explain.

With two-thirds of their quarterback position available to the highest bidder starting Feb. 28, the Steelers NEED to draft a quarterback. And unless they find a satisfactory veteran back-up for less money than starter Tommy Maddox makes, they MUST draft a quarterback, and draft him high. That's when the shuddering begins.

There are, scouts believe, six quarterbacks judged as first or second-rounders. A team without a back-up quarterback must get one that high, right? OK, now cross Carson Palmer and Byron Leftwich off the list. They'll be gone within the first seven picks.

Next, cross off Rex Grossman. Yeah, yeah, yeah, he's supposed to be Brett Favre just because he's cocky. Frankly, he worries me, but he is the first Florida QB in decades with an honest-to-goodness pro arm. So you figure Carolina drafts him at No. 9. Or Carolina drafts Cal quarterback Kyle Boller, who just impressed everyone at the combine by running the 40 in 4.6 seconds, and Baltimore, at No. 10, drafts Grossman. Either way, those two will also go quickly in this QB-starved league.

That's four QBs down from the scouts' top six. Who's left? Chris Simms, the enigmatic Texas southpaw, and Ragone, the lead-footed, inconsistent Louisville southpaw.

So if you're the Steelers, and are not in love with Simms in the first round, you're left with Ragone in the second. That's where I wake up screaming.

What do I have against Ragone? Well, the truth is he reminds of a certain left-hander by the name of Bobby Douglass. Need I say more? Yeah, Douglass tormented me, a 9-year-old just coming aware of the game in my Midwestern home. But, others like Ragone, who was better as a junior. Let's hear from the scouts:

* "If you put it on his shoulders, he can't do it," an anonymous scout told Bob McGinn, who was at the combine researching QB options for the Green Bay Packers and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

* "A Jim Miller-type guy," another scout told McGinn. "But he doesn't have the great arm."

* "He did not impress me" an AFC personnel director told ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli. "I don't know of very many guys that can't get out of the way and can play in this league. I don't see taking a 5-flat guy."

Not everyone's down on Ragone. ESPN's John Clayton raves about him. So does former Steelers boss Tom Donahoe.

* "He threw it pretty good," the Buffalo GM told Pasquarelli. "Ragone's a good athlete. He's a big, strong guy who's not going to be a great scrambler. I like him a lot. He's a good leader."

With all due respect to Donahoe, I'll defer to the anonymous scouts who echo what I typed up while watching the Senior Bowl: "Man, the Steelers can't be serious about him."

In the Senior Bowl, Ragone fumbled a couple times, fired a screen pass at someone's shins, and rolled out and tripped over his own feet. In other words, he played like he had all season.

There's no one else, either. Seneca Wallace is too short and off everyone's list. So is Ken Dorsey, who's shown a very weak arm. Texas Tech's Kliff Kingsbury also has a weak arm but might've moved up into the fifth-round, systems-QB area at the combine.

Brad Banks? No thanks.

That's it, unless you know in your heart that the kid from Mt. Union or Eastern Illinois or Iowa Wesleyan or wherever will be ready to step in if Tommy Maddox goes down. It's Ragone in the second or Phil Simms' kid in the first, if they're lucky.

No, the Steelers are in for a quarterback quandary if they can't find a veteran who'll take less than the $650,000 base salary of their starter. So it's either a minimum-wage veteran or a high draft pick. And tell him to say hello to Brent Alexander for me.

By Jim Wexell
SteelCitySports.com






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