The Steelers held their pre-draft press conference with General Manager Kevin Colbert and Coach Mike Tomlin on Monday afternoon, but the talk wasn't limited to the draft, instead touching on players already on the roster as well.
- Safety valve:The Steelers added a trio free agents on defense this offseason, including safeties Morgan Burnett and Nat Berhe, and linebacker Jon Bostic.
Tomlin didn't go too in-depth in addressing the additions, and hasn't seen them on the field yet as the team is only in Phase One of the offseason, which is strength and conditioning. But looking ahead, he does think Burnett could line up as the team's first-team free safety when OTAs begin in late May.
"I would imagine it's going to be Burnett, but we hadn't decided yet," said Tomlin. "He's played a lot of ball. He's started more than most. But it's not about how we start. Everybody will be given an opportunity to show where they are capable of contributing. Maybe Morgan ends up at strong safety and Sean Davis at free.
"I have seen (Morgan) be a very versatile contributor on Green Bay tape and that is exciting. I am not going to assume that. He has played both safety positions. He has played some sub-package linebacker. I would assume he is going to be available to us in those ways, but I'll let the process take care of that.
"We're open to all of things, not only in terms of the men that we mentioned, but the men that we are going to include this weekend. We're going to get them all on the grass, we're going to teach them all, we're going to have a very inclusive mentality in terms of the instruction and we'll let those guys sort themselves in terms of what they can consistently deliver that is above the line."
- QB or no QB: In the past Colbert has ruled out the quarterback position when talking about the draft, in particular in the first round. This year, though, the team hasn't ruled out any position when they select with the 28th pick in the draft.
"We haven't eliminated any position this year," said Colbert. "Ben's a Hall of Fame quarterback. We're very lucky to have him. He has stated his intention to play at least a few more years, and that is awesome. As I said when we opened this, our job is not only to win a championship in '18, it's to secure this franchise's ability to do it in the future. You have to have a great player at the quarterback position, in our eyes, to have the best chance to win a championship. Fortunately we've got one that is still a highly productive, highly effective quarterback. Part of our job is to surround him with the best talent as well. We have to weigh that in, and we will. But we haven't eliminated any position for this draft."
- No news: Before the questions were even asked, Colbert addressed the latest on Le'Veon Bell, and the bottom line is there was nothing to report.
"I am sure there will be questions about Le'Veon and his contract situation," said Colbert. "There are no updates to provide. As we said previously, at the Owners Meetings and other chances we've had to talk, the Combine and so forth, we are in this draft preparation in full detail and that has our full attention. We usually don't address these types of situations until after the draft and we re-evaluate our salary cap situation and anything we want to do moving forward."
- Exercising their option: Shortly before the press conference began the team made some news when it was announced they picked up the fifth-year option on Bud Dupree, the team's No. 1 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.
"We exercised the fifth-year option on Bud Dupree," said Colbert. "We're excited about where Bud can be in these next two years. We had no hesitation in making that move when we did it."
Dupree started 24 of the 38 games he has played in his first three seasons, including starting 15 games last season. In his three seasons he has 90 tackles, 67 of them solo stops, 14.5 sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. He finished the 2017 season with 40 tackles and a career-high six sacks, while the Steelers defense set a record with 56 sacks.
"We're excited about what Bud is going to do for us in '18 and '19," said Tomlin. "I'm comfortable he's going to meet the challenge."