Steelers open to moving down in first round of draft

May 5, 2014
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin smiles as general manager Kevin Colbert answers questions Monday about the NFL draft, which will begin Thursday. - Associated Press

PITTSBURGH – The Steelers, like all NFL teams, will be all about acquisitions this week as they prepare for the draft.

If general manager Kevin Colbert has his way, it just might include more acquisitions than using the nine picks the team currently holds in the seven-round draft.

Colbert said Monday the Steelers won’t be moving up in the first round, but he would be open to trading the 15th selection to move down in the first round and acquire an extra pick or two in the middle rounds.

“We won’t be moving up, I can say that pretty surely,” said Colbert, noting the team does not have a third-round pick that it can use in such a deal. “Obviously, we could still trade down, and with the depth of this draft, that’s a real possibility. At least it’s an option available to us.”

The Steelers have traded their first round pick three times since Colbert became general manager in 2000, to move up to select Troy Polamalu in 2003 and Santonio Holmes in 2006 and once to move down when they chose Casey Hampton in 2001.

Finding a trade partner could be tough in what Colbert called the best draft class he’s seen in his 30 years of evaluating NFL talent.

With so many good players available, teams might be content to stick with their current picks and allow things to play out.

“I think the quarterbacks are the lynchpin and how teams value them,” Colbert said, adding that he feels with no sure-fire top selection among the quarterbacks, each team could view the group and how they rank differently.

“I think that’s the one thing that could trigger trade ups and trade downs because there’s a lot of depth at the other positions,” he said.

Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, Central Florida’s Blake Bortles, Fresno State’s David Carr and Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville are considered possible first-round picks, though no one can decide who will be the first taken or in what order it will occur.

But the depth and talent at the top of the draft at nearly every other position make this a unique group.

“We are picking at 15, and the player who will be available to us at 15, (in previous years) you would have had to been picking at seven or maybe eight to get the same player,” Colbert said. “There will be 15 players available who we’ll be happy to pick them. I think there are 19 you could say you’d be happy to get at pick 15. I think that trickles down through the rounds. In Round 2, you are getting a guy you would have had to pick in Round 1 before and so on and so forth. It is deep. We’re excited about it.”

After one of the busiest offseasons in team history, one that saw the Steelers sign eight free agents and bringing back six of their own, the Steelers still have some holes to fill.

Cornerback and wide receiver are considered the two biggest needs, though a team coming off of back-to-back 8-8 seasons in which it has failed to make the playoffs can add talent at any position.

“If we stay where we are, there’s probably a few positions off the table,” Colbert admitted. “But if we trade back, there would be no position off the table, because it’s a special group of players.”

Head coach Mike Tomlin would like to add some depth on the defensive line, where Ziggy Hood and Al Woods were lost in free agency, and 35-year-old Brett Keisel remains unsigned.

Tomlin wouldn’t discount the possible re-signing of Keisel at some point, but noted the team is solely focused on the draft right now.

“Obviously, we’re not done in that area,” said Tomlin. “But we do have some young guys from whom we expect improvement. But obviously, it’s incomplete. We’ve lost more than we’ve added. Hopefully, this weekend and beyond, we can rectify that.”

Odds and end zones

Tomlin said linebacker Sean Spence, who has missed the past two seasons after suffering a serious knee injury as a rookie, and defensive lineman Nick Williams, who missed his rookie year with a knee injury, have been given full medical clearance to return to football activities. … When asked about the outcome of the trial in which three men were acquitted for stabbing offensive tackle Mike Adams last summer and if it impacted his standing with the team, Colbert said simply, “I’m just glad Mike Adams is a Steeler.”

Dale Lolley has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1993 after previously working at WJAC-TV and the Tribune-Democrat in Johnstown, and The Derrick in Oil City. A native of Fryburg, Pa., he is a graduate of North Clarion High School and the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, where he earned a degree in journalism. He has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers since joining the Observer-Reporter in 1993, and also serves as the outdoors editor. He also is a radio host for Pittsburgh’s ESPN 970-AM, and serves as administrative adviser for the Red & Black, Washington & Jefferson College’s student newspaper.

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