Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Do Kevin Colbert's Comments Give Insight Into Steelers Draft Plans?


Pittsburgh Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert met with a handful of writers last Wednesday and spoke candidly about the 2012 team. He provided a very honest assessment of where the fault lies for the team's overall performance and lack of success, changes coming to the roster and draft problems that saw two players, Alameda Ta'amu and Chris Rainey, get into trouble with the Law.

"I know Art (Rooney II) used the term 'frustrated.' I'm going with 'disappointed.' I'm disappointed in myself, that those 61 (players) were 8-8. Like I said, I'm at the head of the class." - http://tinyurl.com/aypcbrt

As all good leaders should do, Colbert rightly accepted responsibility. "The buck stops here," as a former U.S. president once made his motto. That doesn't mean, though, that's where it starts. We all know what rolls downhill, and in this case it rolls right down onto the field of play.

In further comments, Colbert made it sound as though change is coming to the roster. In fact, he wasn't even subtle about it. The draft, and possibly free agency, will affect major change for next season. The "best available player" will come in many forms this April 25-27.

"We won't close the door on any position in any round. We can't....Once we get into free agency and the draft, I don't see any position that's off limits," Colbert stated.

"When you're 12-4 and a playoff team, sometimes you get mesmerized by your success and you get a little reluctant to change...If we don't change 8-8, if we don't change the roster that produced 8-8," he also said, "we'd be silly to expect a better result if we have the same group of guys. We're not married to any of these guys."

How did Albert Einstein define "insanity?"

But, before we address any players or positions that he mentioned or that have a greater chance of getting special attention, let us be clear about one thing: despite what Colbert said about not ruling out drafting "any position in any round," It won't be a quarterback on the first two days of the draft. Ok? We clear? Good, let's move on now.

Regarding the Salary Cap dilemma, Jim Wexell of steelcityinsider.net said that their Cap-ologist Ian Whetstone, whom we've used as a source several times before, said the Steelers being $12 million over the Cap is doable.

By 'cutting James Harrison they'd save $5.1 million,' and "a Ben {Roethlisberger} restructure could save $7.2M max. {Lawrence} Timmons another target at $5.4M max."

"Cutting {Willie} Colon," he said further, "would save only $1.2M. Don't see any other realistic possibilities (aside from aforementioned Harrison)....But need the cap cuts {and to be Rule of 51 compliant} by March 12. If you keep Colon past March 12, you may as well keep him another year."

He finished his mini Twitter dissertation by saying the "team could restructure {LaMarr} Woodley for max savings of $6.2M. I'm optimistic, but that's risky." (brackets ours)

Since Colbert said that they don't have "too many franchise players" and that compliance "will include terminations, possible extensions and reconstructions," any or all of that is feasible.

Earlier this month, we talked specifically about the need to fill defensive holes early in the 2013 NFL Draft. Not the entire draft, not the first two days...just early. With Harrison's contract ripe for 'termination,' as mentioned above, an outside linebacker is a great possibility.

One whom we've mentioned before and whom Mel Kiper even has the Steelers taking in his 2013 NFL mock draft is BYU's Ziggy Ansah. Is he a defensive end or an outside linebacker? As his position coach said, he's both. Behind The Steel Curtain says it's the former, we say it's either. The link provided includes a video to help you decide. - http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2013/1/16/3883850/mel-kiper-2013-nfl-mock-draft-steelers-ezekiel-ansah

But, let's say, because of Rashard Mendenhall ("Any time a player doesn't show up for a game, that's unacceptable"), Mike Wallace (franchise tag: "Very doubtful") and Chris Rainey ("lost the trust of the organization" http://tinyurl.com/backbnk) all having character issues of some sort, might they look only toward choir boys? Um...no. - http://www.steelers.com/news/article-1/Trying-to-meet-both-standards/4bda2c71-f51e-48f9-b70b-4015797490f3

Since the aforementioned players are very likely all leaving the team this offseason, the "best available player" may be on offense - of questionable background or not. That said, is a wide receiver or multi-skilled player like West Virginia's Tavon Austin, a possibility? Scoring is essential in today's NFL, and Austin can help generate it.

Listed at 5'9", 175 lbs., with a 4.38/40 and nicknamed Tavon "Awesome," he was WVU's electric star of That 70's Show. Austin lined up at wide receiver, in the slot, as a returner and as a running back and "shows a surprising amount of patience, even as an inside runner."

Such a player could stretch the field or do any and all of the things Rainey should have done. But, don't take our word for it, read the brilliantly detailed breakdown of him and his best collegiate game by rotoworld.com: http://www.rotoworld.com/articles/cfb/42156/321/tavon-awesome

"Where we were in running game last year was indicative in the talent at the position," Colbert said of the Steelers' second-worst rushing offense since 1978. "That group of players didn't produce the way we anticipated they would."

Was that actually the running backs or was it issues, injury-related and otherwise, with the offensive line? Let's assume it was the running backs as a whole. If so, neither Jonathan Dwyer nor Isaac Redman should feel too secure about starting in 2013: Dwyer's vision and decision making keep him from being a true No. 1 back, and Redman has lost five fumbles in three years. - http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/sports/steelers/steelers-sunday-spotlight-running-back-help-wanted-671249/

If it was more a product of the continued offensive line issues, there is no shortage of guard prospects in this draft, as there are 73 underclassmen who've declared themselves eligible for the draft. - http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2013/01/19/nfl-draft-early-entries/

The guards of note include Jonathan Cooper of North Carolina, Alabama’s Barrett Jones or Chance Warmack. Warmack is a viable option at the 17th pick. - http://tinyurl.com/bmkdtkw

Regardless, in looking over what is in front on the Steelers, the Salary Cap issues that affect decisions, the age on defense and the vacancies needing filled on offense, their needs are simply their needs.

So, while the interview with Colbert didn't give direct insight into what the Steelers will do in the upcoming draft, rest assured that the "best available player" will come in many forms in this April's NFL Draft.

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TIDBITS: Points off turnovers were the difference in six of the eight losses. Much bigger problem than the fan-driven tension between Big Ben and Todd Haley. He says a lot of that was "anticipation." He liked offense in 1st half of the season. - http://www.steelers.com/news/article-1/Takeaway-total-is-trending-down/eee51537-2fcc-41ff-8641-28b097bf105a

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Omar Khan, one of the finalists for Jets' GM job, was eventually passed over. According to Colbert, "He's earned it. We think he's ready." Fortunately, he's still here. (That sound you hear is a collective sigh from Steeler Nation.)

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Despite no minority coaches hired this offseason, Rooney says the "Rooney Rule" is still 'workable with some tweaking.' - http://tinyurl.com/ag549xv

Yet, one source says the proposed coordinator expansion wouldn't apply to new head coaches: http://tinyurl.com/a4mfnq7