Monday was a busy day for Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert. After answering questions along with Coach Mike Tomlin from the media at Heinz Field, he took questions from Steelers Nation Unite members during a Steelers Huddle call.
The questions ranged from ones similar to those asked by the media, as well as others on a less technical side, including his favorite aspect of draft preparation.
"It's learning about these young men as people as compared to football players," said Colbert, who genuinely loves to get to know the players during pre-draft interviews and once they arrive with the team. "It's the person under the helmet and trying to gain perspective of who that person is. What his football character is as best as we can determine. We can watch and see the talent, that unknown part we like to investigate and learn about is always interesting and exciting."
One of the exciting things for those in player personnel on draft day is when a player surprisingly falls into your hands at the perfect spot. It doesn't happen often, but the one that Colbert said was the most surprising happened for the Steelers in 2004 when Ben Roethlisberger was available at the 11th spot.
"We were picking 11th that year," said Colbert. "We knew it was a great quarterback class. As it turns out it's most likely three of those gentlemen will be inducted into the Hall of Fame at some point when their careers are over, Ben included. To have him fall to us at the 11th pick was an unusual occurrence and very surprising. It was obviously beneficial to the organization because Ben has played at a high level throughout his career, and we are looking forward to that being extended for the 2021 season."
Colbert was asked about the balance of drafting to fill holes over the next few years with building for the future and how a trade down could play into that.
"Our challenge every year is to try and put the best team we can for the '21 season on the field and never ignoring the future," said Colbert. "That is our job to always be competitive year in and year out. What we always look at is who we are looking at for a particular pick, if we like the player we are looking at and have the opportunity to pick, 95% of the time we are going to take that player and not trade back. If we do trade back, I always like to do it on a 100% guarantee that we will get a player we like. If we are looking to trade back five spots, I want to make sure there are five players we would feel comfortable in taking so as to get the player we want and maybe pick up some extra picks. We did that with Casey Hampton years ago and we obviously got a real quality player and ended up with some extra picks that helped us at other positions. We'll always value quality over quantity, but in a given year we may have to trade back and try to accomplish both."
If there was one word that Colbert used over and over during the call it was 'need.' And it wasn't because it's a word he focuses on in the draft. Just the opposite.
"We'll select the best player regardless of position. I don't quite share the view that it's a need," said Colbert. "We have 50 players of the 75 currently on our roster that have played in NFL games, the majority of those 50 have started NFL games. We could play a game today and feel good about the group we have. We go into this draft being wide open and never forcing ourselves to take a particular position. More often than not when we have done that in the past, and when I have witnessed it from afar in the past, we will make a mistake and teams will make a mistake when they factor in that dreaded word need. We always want to focus on the want, and the want will always be the best player regardless of position."
Colbert also talked about the impact new offensive coordinator Matt Canada would have on the draft process, what positions he likes to evaluate the most and when he begins to work on the draft board for the next year.
He also gave a nice shout out to the international fans on the call, telling them, "It's always great to know we have fans from around the world, but to hear from you and talk to you is a great pleasure."