By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — Even though he said the Pittsburgh Steelers wouldn’t necessarily pick with team needs in mind during this NFL Draft, when all was said and done the past three days it sure seemed like they added depth at every thin position.
“This draft really broke well for us (by) getting good players that we feel fit,” Colbert said. “And (they) have a good chance to contribute. … We got (two cornerbacks) in spots where we thought we may get them. We didn’t reach for anyone trying to fill a hole.
“We just got guys that we thought could compete and contribute, and we hope both can do that. … If (the picks) happen to meet positions that can help your team (that’s) great. We think we did that, but only time will tell.”
In the first round, the Steelers bolstered an aging defensive line by taking end Cameron Heyward from Ohio State. Their second-round pick, Florida tackle Marcus Gilbert, was needed because two previous starters at that spot on the offensive line are coming off injuries — Max Starks and Willie Colon. And Colon’s status also is in question because he’s a free agent.
Many draft prognosticators believed the Steelers’ most pressing need was in the secondary and more specifically at cornerback, and when the club finally went there it took two in a row with Curtis Brown from Texas in the third round and Cortez Allen from The Citadel in the fourth.
“We have some uncertainty at that position, and some others, like 31 other teams,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “(But) I’m comfortable from a standpoint with the understanding that everyone has unanswered questions. … We like the upside in both guys. They have different body types, but similar job descriptions.
It wouldn’t be a Steelers draft if they didn’t pick a linebacker at some point, and that occurred in the fifth round with Fresno State’s Chris Carter, a defensive end in college projected to be an outside backer in the club’s three-four defense.
The Steelers finally got back to the offensive side of the ball, after picking defensive players with four of their opening five selections, by taking Nebraska offensive guard Keith Williams in the sixth round. And in the seventh, they made Texas Tech running back Baron Batch their final pick.
Colbert noted that all seven players drafted this year were seniors, as opposed to last year when the Steelers selected five juniors.
“That wasn’t by design, either, (so) we didn’t have a set number going in,” Colbert said. “We just had guys that we thought that we could get them in certain positions, and it worked out really just as we planned.”
The Steelers usually have more picks in the draft, but since they had no compensatory picks and did not make any trades up for down they did not gain any additional selections.
“There were a few calls, more team calling us trying to trade up to our spots, but we felt comfortable with the way these players were looking like they were able to make it to us,” Colbert said. “(So), if we had any of these guys available, we weren’t going to trade away from them. … We would rather have the player than an extra pick and miss out on that opportunity.
“(And) I would much rather just sit and let it come to us, because usually that’s going to yield the best results. We’ve had success trading up and down, but for the most part if we sit tight we (usually are) just fine. I’d love to have 15 picks, because I love the free agents. I love that process.”
The NFL teams usually spend the post-draft hours contacting undrafted free agents, but that isn’t allowed until the lockout officially comes to an end.