General Manager Kevin Colbert is in attendance at the NFL Owners Meeting in Arizona, and during a session with the media early Sunday afternoon he was asked about some of the issues that have been swirling around the team of late.
His answers reflected some of the opinions he had shared at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis at the end of February, and he also reiterating some long-standing team philosophies about free agency, the draft, and expanding instant replay. And he doesn't believe for a minute that Ben Roethlisberger will shrink in the face of the recent criticism levied at him by some in the national media in the wake of the departures of Le'Veon Bell in free agency and Antonio Brown in a trade to the Oakland Raiders.
The Steelers, some say uncharacteristically, have spent close to $46 million during this free agency period, with the marquee additions being cornerback Steven Nelson, linebacker Mark Barron, and wide receiver Donte Moncrief. Even with that, Colbert wasn't prepared to say the team was finished with that phase of its offseason.
"We'll never say we are done (with free agency)," said Colbert. "We feel we are at a good place right now, but something can happen where maybe there is a player who becomes available, so we always have to be ready for that. The way the roster stands right now I think we have 51 guys who either were on our team last year or were active players in the NFL. That's not to say we are good enough at any position, but it's also exciting to know that we have 10 picks to add to that group so I think that could be very beneficial for us."
Those 10 picks reference the number the Steelers have in the upcoming draft, and should they use all of them it would represent their largest class since 2010 when they also made 10 picks. Colbert said the Steelers have no preconceived notions about how many picks would constitute too many, or even if such a thing exists.
"At this point, sure," said Colbert about the team using all 10. "Trading up or trading back, that is always going to be a possibility. We won't know that until probably draft day, but you always have those different scenarios. Understanding when you have 10 you have more ammunition to either take 10 players or use ammunition to trade up."
Trading up in the first round is an extremely popular strategy among Steelers fans, and Colbert said it's something that usually doesn't come together until the moment is upon you, and it's also not something that's done carelessly with regard to the cost of the trade. Oh, and the Steelers don't adhere to any universal draft pick value chart when negotiating trades with other teams.
"Everybody uses their own (formula), and we understand that," said Colbert. "When we are making a trade with a team, they may tell us it doesn't match the value and that is their decision, but if you go back to when we traded up for Troy [Polamalu], I think we went from No. 27 to No. 16 and I think we gave up a third and a sixth. When we traded up for Santonio Holmes, I think we went from No. 32 to No. 25, I can't even remember, and we gave up a third and a fourth and people say we gave up too much. My immediate response would be, well he did catch the touchdown pass to win a Super Bowl.
"I think in any year that value is what you decide it to be. Someone may say we need this, or it doesn't match our chart, and so we may say we want to exceed those charts. We don't know until we get moving on it."
And don't expect Colbert to agree with the idea that adding another late-round pick to get the deal done is the right way to go.
"Anytime you're talking about trading draft picks, I never just use, it's a three and a six, because that six might be Antonio Brown," said Colbert. "You say, just throw in a seventh. Well, that seventh might have been Brett Keisel. So you never just want to say, it's a pick. You try to associate a player you could get with those picks. And you go back in history and look at what you got with certain picks, but then you also project who you might be turning away from in a given draft. This player would probably be a player we could get in each of those rounds, so you have to try and equate that and make the determination whether it would be beneficial or not."
And in case anyone really wondered, Colbert is not worried about Roethlisberger in any way, from whether his contract extension will get done, to whether anyone who matters gives a hoot about the media criticism of the Steelers' quarterback.
About the status of Roethlisberger's contract extension:
"Still ongoing. You know, it's probably his last contract as an NFL player, so it's significant. It's significant for us, especially since we're in a different dynamic from a financial standpoint as far as the cap because we don't have a couple players with us from before. So we have to make sure it all makes sense. But it has to make sense from both sides, and that we're comfortable. At some point we hope it does."
About the criticism:
"I have not spoken to (Ben) since the end of the season. I don't think that will bother him. I think Ben is very comfortable with who he is, what he's done, and what he can still do. I don't think it will affect him because each and every year he's out there trying to prove who he is and he'll have no agenda other than trying to win a Super Bowl. You know what, you can't dictate what someone will say, either when they're with you or when they leave. But we feel comfortable knowing that Ben Roethlisberger is our quarterback and is our leader. Ben unquestionably is a top quarterback in this league. He's a Hall of Fame quarterback. He's won Super Bowls. I know he's comfortable with that, we're comfortable with that, and we're always going to support him in that role."