Steelers Nation Unite

Colbert talks draft with Steelers Nation Unite members

With the 2015 NFL Draft in the books, fans across the NFL want to know how this year's crop of rookies will impact not only this season, but also the future of the franchise. Who better to ask that question to than a team's General Manager?

Steelers Nation Unite members were afforded that exact opportunity today when General Manager Kevin Colbert took some time to answer their questions in a Fan Forum conference call about the team's newest additions, as well as how the squad is shaping up heading into OTAs and mini-camp.

This exclusive event was made available to Steelers Nation Unite members through the Weekly Huddle, which delivers new ways for fans to connect with Steelers' players, front office personnel and alumni all year long. It's one of the many benefits that Steelers fans can receive by joining Steelers Nation Unite and being officially recognized as members of Steelers Nation.

Fans were very interested in knowing how this year's rookies could impact the 2015 season and what the expectations are for the group. There was also some talk about the excitement in the draft room when the team was able to select Bud Dupree with 22nd overall pick, as well as how some of the returning players are looking to step up this season.

Below are a few highlights from today's Steelers Nation Unite conference call with Kevin Colbert.

Q: What are the expectations for Bud Dupree this season?

General Manager Kevin Colbert:"We never put a timetable on when the players that we draft will be able to contribute, but we expect Bud to be a contributor this year. Whether or not he wins a starting job, that's up to Coach Tomlin and the defensive staff as to when he's ready to help us win. I'm sure that once they judge that he is ready to help us win, then they'll get him in the starting lineup. If not, he'll contribute as probably a sub-package player, and beyond that he'll also be able to help out on special teams. He's certainly big enough and athletic enough to do all those different things. Bud has a wide resume that covers a lot of areas of football and, again, he should be able to contribute to us in a number of different ways."

Q: Do you feel that Shamarko Thomas got the training necessary from Troy Polamalu, and the extra work that he got in by going out to California, to be a starter this year?

KC:"Last year, Shamarko Thomas spent some time training with Troy Polamalu out in California. And not only that, but more importantly he got to see Troy work every day. He got to be in meetings with him, he got to see how he practiced, how he prepared and how he played on game day. I think that Shamarko is a very aware player that understood the greatness he was watching and he appreciated it. I think he feels a burden to carry on what Troy started. He'll never try to be Troy Polamalu, as he shouldn't, but I know he has stated that he wants to make Troy proud. He certainly watched him and really looked up to him in his time as Troy's backup. We're excited to see what Shamarko can bring now that it's his turn."

Q: If some of the rookies don't start on defense initially, will they contribute on special teams?

KC:"Any time we draft a player, they have to work their way into the lineup. And the easiest way to do that is to prove that you can do something on special teams. A lot of the players that we're drafting, in fact most of them, have been college starters and been college starters for most of their careers. A lot of times they didn't get to play on special teams. But if you have a certain speed, if you have a certain athleticism, if you have a certain level of physicality, you should be able to contribute as a special teamer. To me, special teams are a lot about those virtues, but they're also a lot about the willingness to learn from the bottom up and show your teammates that you can contribute in a way that can help them on fourth down as much as they try to help you on first, second and third down. A lot of great players earned their stripes on special teams and it just shows a real knack for football character when they're willing to do it."

To participate in these events and stay updated with your team, join Steelers Nation Unite to ensure your access to these exclusive opportunities that only the Steelers can provide.

To join Steelers Nation Unite and be officially recognized as a member of Steelers Nation, visit http://steelersnationunite.com/ or the 'Steelers Nation Unite' page on the Steelers mobile app. Joining is free, quick and easy and only requires an email address and a password to sign up.

Check out these photos of Steelers Nation Unite events from throughout the 2014 season.

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