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On who Steelers 'met with at the Combine'

Posted Mar 4, 2016

GM Kevin Colbert estimated the team interviewed 120 players prior to the 2015 Draft.

Ready or not, here it comes:

* The 2016 NFL Combine ended on Feb. 29, and a lot of these kinds of tidbits already were being reported urgently. “The Steelers met with (Penn State defensive end) Carl Nassib at the Combine,” or “The Steelers met with (Oregon quarterback) Vernon Adams at the Combine.” And it was perceived as a more delicious morsel when the player “the Steelers met with” at the Combine actually played a position most fans want to see the team strengthen through the draft, like, say, a safety such as Jeremy Cash or Keanu Neal.

* All of this can be fun for fans to use as a way to keep themselves connected with their favorite team, but caveat emptor. Beware, all of you buyers out there, because what is being sold isn’t necessarily what you hope it is.

* This is the reality: The Steelers interviewed 60 guys during that recently concluded one-week span in Indianapolis. Sixty. Before that, they talked to 50-plus at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, in late January. General Manager Kevin Colbert estimated that the Steelers interviewed “120 or so guys” during the run-up to the draft last year, and that number figures to be fairly consistent with what turns out to be the number this year.

* One hundred twenty interviews. Six draft choices, as it stands today. Kind of puts the whole “the Steelers met with (fill in the blank) at the Combine” into perspective, huh?

* The deadline for teams to use tags – franchise, exclusive franchise, transition – on their potential free agents passed on March 1 at 4 p.m., and 10 teams exercised that right under the terms of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. And what we learned is that players who are difference-makers when the ball is in the air, or more accurately, players whose teams believe they are difference-makers when the ball is in the air, are highly-valued.

* Of the 10 tagged players, only the placekicker doesn’t have a job directly connected either to the process of throwing the football, or the process of defending the thrown football. Among the 10, there was one quarterback, one wide receiver, two defensive ends – one of whom had 28.5 sacks in  his last 44 games and another who had 25.5 sacks in 48 games – three defensive backs, an edge rusher who lined up as an outside linebacker, and a left tackle assigned to protect the quarterback’s blind side.

* In addition to revealing what NFL teams value most when evaluating talent, the decisions on the tags prove how expensive it is to try to buy these kinds of players on the open market, instead of drafting your own and then developing them. Shut-down cornerbacks, or what qualifies as a shut-down cornerback in today’s market, cost $13.95 million for a single season. An edge rusher who does it as a linebacker costs $14.13 million. A quarterback goes for $19.95 million.

* Actually, in the case of the Washington Redskins, the cost of their quarterback is way beyond a couple of dollars less than $20 million. That’s because in the days leading up to the 2012 NFL Draft, the Redskins traded the sixth overall pick in the first round in 2012 and their second-round pick in 2012, plus their first-round picks in 2013 and 2014, to move up to the second overall pick in the first round of the 2012 draft to select Robert Griffin III. That arrangement didn’t work out to the degree it’s expected to end shortly with the team releasing Griffin, and so it came to pass that the Redskins tendered a one-year contract to Kirk Cousins for $19.95 million that becomes fully guaranteed the moment the tender is signed.

* If I’m Kirk Cousins, I would’ve been in Daniel Snyder’s office the very next morning with two pens in my hand, just in case one of them ran out of ink in mid-signature.

* There was no mention of whether Cousins indeed showed up with the two pens, but he did sign his franchise tender within 24 hours of being tagged. Apparently, that Michigan State education wasn’t totally wasted on Cousins.

* Staying with the general subject of NFL quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers wasn’t able to take the Green Bay Packers to Super Bowl 50, but he did author a season in which he helped his team win two games with separate long touchdown passes in desperate situations at the end of each game. Now, keep that in mind as you’re reminded of how Rodgers took a jab at Russell Wilson after the Seattle quarterback credited God for a victory over the Packers in the 2014 NFC Championship Game.

* At the end of the 2015 season, Rodgers used Twitter to repeat his opinion that God cares not about the outcome of football games. Rodgers tweeted, “Have to start my return by thanking @TheTweetOfGod for an exciting season. Tell your son’s mother I said thank you for those two throws.”

* Of course, God’s son’s mother was Mary, and a long touchdown pass in a desperate situation has come to be known as a “Hail Mary.” Blasphemous, or cleverly humorous? That’s for each individual to decide, but put me in the camp of cleverly humorous.

* Hey, did any of you guys hear the Steelers met with cornerbacks Eli Apple and Mackensie Alexander at the Combine?

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