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The 15 minute interview

Posted Feb 23, 2016

General Manager Kevin Colbert and the Steelers continue to prepare for the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine.

They get just 15 minutes with potential draftees at the NFL Scouting Combine, but on occasion 15 minutes are more than enough."

Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert confirmed it has taken less time than that for a prospect to eliminate himself from consideration.

“It was just obvious that they weren’t going to be a good fit for our team,” Colbert said of such instances. “Right, wrong or indifferent, sometimes you just form quick judgements. You just don’t like their personality.

“There’s always a chance to improve a player’s playing ability. But sometimes a personality is very difficult to change.”

That makes those individual interviews a critical part of the Steelers’ pre-draft evaluation.

Colbert estimated the Steelers interviewed “120 or so guys” in advance of last year’s draft, sit-downs that were conducted either at the Senior Bowl, the Combine or during the 30 pre-draft visits NFL teams are permitted to host.

He also said he didn’t think the Steelers had selected a player on the first round that they hadn’t interviewed prior to the draft since he joined the organization in 2000.

Some players are interviewed more than once.

For some, once is enough.

“You only get 15 minutes during the formal interview so you are trying to get a snapshot of his personality,” Colbert said of what’s destined to take place at the Combine, Feb. 23-29 in Indianapolis. “You can get some of the football stuff, but usually that will take the second visit, when we bring them back here (to the Rooney UPMC Sports Complex) and have half a day to spend with them and get into more Xs and Os and watch video with them.

“At the Combine you really are just trying to get a feel for their personality, their parents, siblings, what their background has been, what their educational background is and where they stand in school, some of the legalities. Sometimes we get into football but most of the time we save that for the visit when we bring them back here.”

The Steelers aren’t flying blind at the Combine.

Their interviews are preceded by the prerequisite homework.

“Most of the time we have a good lead (on a player) because I will update the coach,” Colbert said. “He will have a sheet in front of him that says what we think we know about this player. (The player) may come in and confirm that. We’ve given him an opportunity to maybe overcome or sway us from what we were thinking, but they just kind of confirm it and you move on.

“It will happen with the 60 we interview this year, I am sure. There will probably be a few we don’t like. It can go the other way, too. All of a sudden you don’t anticipate much and you come out and you are super impressed.”

While the Steelers are always on the lookout for the type of aggressive, edgy personality traits that would seemingly help allow a player to thrive within the competitive environment of the NFL, they don’t mind polite.

“Art Rooney, Jr., I still have his postcard in my office, he said, ‘Don’t mistake kindness for weakness,’” Colbert explained. “You can be a good person and be a good player, a great player.

“If you talk to Heath Miller, you don’t get that edgy kind of feel when you talk to him one-on-one but I think there’s a huge difference when he hits the field.

“I think high-character guys can be great players, as well.”

Occasionally, prospects bring enough to the table that they can defy conventional methods of evaluation.

Miller, who was coming off of sports hernia surgery before the Steelers made him the 30th overall pick in 2005, was such a player.

“We never timed him in the 40-yard dash,” Colbert said. “It really didn’t matter in that case.”