PHOENIX – Ben Roethlisberger's contract extension wasn't the most recent offseason development for the Steelers but is perceived as their most significant.
"The biggest offseason move was obviously to have your franchise quarterback secured for the next five years," General Manager Kevin Colbert said. "It's ultimately important to have him with us for as long as we can.
"Ben's extension is hopefully going to see him through the five best years of his career."
Speaking at the Arizona Biltmore in advance of the opening of the 2015 NFL Owners Meetings, Colbert addressed a number of the Steelers' offseason topics, including:
Outside linebacker Jason Worilds' retirement: "We didn't know where Jason's (free-agent) market was going to go. We anticipated it being much more than we were going to be able to handle, so his deciding to retire really didn't affect us because he really wasn't in our plans. I am surprised that Jason did it at this point, but I respect his wishes to move on with his life."
The plan entering free agency: "We went into free agency, I guess, really trying to hold serve. We didn't think we were going to be big players. It's not over yet, but I really don't anticipate a lot of big moves from this point forward. So we wanted to be able to come out of it retaining as many guys as we could. We were able to do that in some cases and then bring in a running back in DeAngelo Williams. We thought that was a very important piece."
The Steelers' salary cap situation: "We're fine right now. We're in good cap shape. We're in good cap shape with the players we have, and we'll be in good cap shape with players we continue to add or continue to extend as time goes on. We're fine right now."
Competition for starting spots: "In my eyes, it is (an open competition at right outside linebacker), yeah, I would imagine, sure. I mean, offensively you could look and say, 'OK, that's the starters.' Defensively, I think there are certain positions where, 'OK, they're the starters.' But right outside linebacker, left outside linebacker, the weakside inside linebacker, both cornerbacks, they're all up for grabs in my eyes. My job is to provide the competition and then the coaches will sort it out once they get everybody together."
Depth at cornerback: "I think that's a position we'd like to make some additions to, I see it being more (in the) draft. We knew we weren't going to be big players (in free agency) so we're not surprised where we are at this point. If there was a deal that made sense, we would have made it. We looked, we kicked some tires, some players kicked some tires with us; didn't match up, that's OK. We're fine going into the draft. We're halfway through our Pro Day season. We're getting a real good feel for what's out there and it's encouraging."
The possibility of drafting an immediate starter at cornerback: "I guess it depends on the player. Young players on both sides of the ball traditionally haven't been starters, save for a quarterback (Roethlisberger) or a (Maurkice) Pouncey (at center) or a Casey Hampton (at nose tackle). There are a few here and there but you usually don't go into it saying, 'OK, we're drafting you to start.' If they do and they're good, that's fine. If not, if they're not ready, that's probably more the norm."
Why Williams is a "very important piece" at running back: "You always want to have a fallback, someone to complement. A starting running back, I don't care how good they are, it's a little hard to play every down. You want to have someone who has been there, done that, but still not worn out, either. You still want some life and you want them to accept the role that we presented. It was made very clear by Le'Veon (Bell's) play last year that he's a pretty good back. It's a different scenario than it was last year."
The change in how Bell is perceived: "After his rookie year I think you could say he was a good back. After last year I think everyone can agree he's a very good back. Someone coming in has a better understanding of who (Bell) is, or they should. You gotta save 'great' for guys who have done it for a lot of years. Joe Greene taught me that a long time ago, 'It's good to do it, let's do it again.' So 'great' is reserved for very few, but he's a very good player."