The NFL Draft is a two weeks later this year, but that hasn’t delayed the Steelers from doing their due diligence in preparation for the three-day May event.
Even with the league having gathered in Orlando this week for the NFL Owners’ Meetings, the Steelers remain hard at work evaluating prospects from top to bottom.
Even prospects such as South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney, who is projected as a top-of-the-draft selection and well beyond the Steelers’ reach at No. 15 overall in the first round. Clowney’s status as an early pick comes from him being a 6-foot-5, 266-pound defensive lineman who ran a 4.53 in the 40 at the NFL Scouting Combine.
There is no realistic scenario in which the Steelers have a chance to pick Clowney come May 8, but they still are evaluating him, even if the way they’re looking at him is different than most others.
“As I stated then, I think it’s the best draft I’ve seen in 30 years,” Colbert said. “As we’ve made our way around to the pro days it has reinforced that. It’s a strong group.
“We’ll lose a couple prospects along the way with medical or character issues that may come up, but for the most part it’s been very encouraging these last four weeks since the Combine.”
Colbert has pro day visits to North Carolina, Duke and Texas A&M on this week’s agenda, once he wraps up his NFL Owners’ Meeting responsibilities.
The available depth in the draft has Colbert and the Steelers thinking about a potential trade in the first round, and he of course understands that won’t be possible unless another team is entertaining the same possibility.
“Trading down in this draft would make more sense than trading up,” Colbert said. “Everybody probably shares the same thoughts; I never know what teams are thinking.
“We certainly didn’t think we’d be able to trade with a division opponent last year, but it made sense for both organizations so we were able to do it.
“We’ll be more open to going down, obviously, than going up.”
The trade Colbert references was the one with the Cleveland Browns on the third day of the 2013 NFL Draft. That trade had the Steelers send this year’s third-round pick to Cleveland last April for a fourth-round selection that originally belonged to Miami (111th overall) and use the pick on safety
“If (Shamarko Thomas) was in this draft we certainly would feel good about using a third-round pick (on Thomas),” Colbert said. “He started out real good for us last year and then after the ankle injury he fell behind because he was missing time. And then
“Shamarko will come out of this last year a much better player, we think, this year.”
In addition to the 15th selection on the first round, the Steelers have picks in the second, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh rounds. The Steelers also are anticipating the awarding of compensatory picks for the free-agent losses of wide receiver Mike Wallace, cornerback Keenan Lewis, and running back Rashard Mendenhall in the 2013 offseason.
Colbert’s educated guess is a “significant pick” as compensation for the loss of Wallace and potentially a fourth-round pick for Lewis, but at present that’s no more than a guess.
“It’s a real complicated formula based on net free agents lost versus gained, the money that was spent and then all their production put together,” Colbert explained. “We try to predict it but actually we’ve gotten more picks than I’ve predicted in the past.
“We’ll find out (on the compensatory picks) I guess on Tuesday or Wednesday. I don’t know (exactly) when.”
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