For Steelers' Colbert, draft is a craft
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Mike Bires
Timesonline.com

PITTSBURGH - For decades, the Steelers have built their teams through the NFL Draft, and based on their success on the field, they have drafted quite well. Director of football operations Kevin Colbert explains how it's done.

Colbert and his scouts start off with a list of 1,000 prospects.

That list is then whittled down to 400 potential draftees who have detailed reports written about them.

That list is then pared down to 200.

Then the list is narrowed to 160 players "who really fit the Pittsburgh Steelers."

From that list are 100 players "we think could improve our team, and they are at all different levels throughout the draft."

[IMGR]http://i55.tinypic.com/6r4whk.jpg[/IMGR]So starting Thursday, continuing Friday and concluding Saturday, Colbert and his scouts in conjunction with coach Mike Tomlin and his assistants are optimistic they'll find athletes who can keep the Steelers contenders for years to come.

The Steelers have one pick in each of the seven rounds, including the 31st overall selection.

"We are looking for guys who can help us throughout all seven rounds and hopefully we are going to pick the right ones," Colbert said. "We are excited about our chances."

Even though the Steelers won't pick until 31st in Thursday's first round, they're excited because they almost always draft well. Sure, there have been some busts since Colbert was hired in 2000. But with three trips to the Super Bowls in the past six seasons, the Steelers obviously know how to draft.

They prefer to build primarily through the draft and never are big players in free agency.

"The philosophy that this organization follows was developed long before I or my scouts got here," Colbert said. "(Former head of scouting) Art Rooney Jr. set a standard, and he and Coach (Chuck) Noll put together a philosophy that the organization believes in. We just fall in line with that.

"In reference to our scouts, we have a real good blend of experience. We have some young guys that know the road and have good contacts. It's a good group. We have ex-coaches, ex-players and we have a guy like Bill Nunn and even though he is now part-time, he is still very influential in our discussions. He's good for our young scouts because they can tap into his knowledge and we certainly do that."

Nunn, 85, is in his 44th year in the Steelers' scouting department. Among others on the Steelers scouting department are the legendary "Mean" Joe Greene, the Hall of Fame defensive tackle who anchored the famous "Steel Curtain" defensive line in the 1970s; Dan Rooney Jr., the son of Steelers' chairman emeritus and U.S. ambassador to Ireland Dan Rooney; and Kelvin Fisher, a former Ambridge star.

"Once the season is over, that's when we get the coaches involved," Colbert said. "Their opinion is very valuable. So it's my job, along with Coach Tomlin to put all that information together, so maybe we can make the picks that the organization has always prided itself on."

More often than not, the Steelers prescribe to the "best athlete available" theory -especially in the first round.

Sure, the Steelers always factor in need. For example, they definitely need help right now at cornerback especially if shut-down corner Ike Taylor isn't re-signed. So it's almost certain the Steelers will take at least one cornerback at some point in this year's draft. But that doesn't mean they'll "reach" for one in the first round.

"I don't necessarily use the term best athlete. It's the best player available," Colbert said. "We always balance the talent versus the need and if it is close, if two or more players are close we will always take the player of need. But what we don't do is to reach for a specific position. That is where the biggest mistakes have been made and I think will continue to be made."

Including time spent at the NFL Combine and subsequent pro days at college campuses, Colbert and Tomlin have interviewed 90 prospects. In recent weeks, they've hosted 30 players for post-combine visits at team headquarters. Those 30 don't include the seven draft eligible players from Pitt they've interviewed.

"It is a deep draft," Colbert said. "So we are optimistic we can find some help."

The draft process started for the Steelers with 1,000 prospects. It will end late Saturday afternoon with seven new picks in the fold.

http://www.timesonline.com/sports/fo...a4bcf6878.html