Focus switches to draft


Kevin Colbert has been in the NFL long enough to know someone in his position never says never, and so he wouldn't admit the Steelers are finished with free agency after re-signing three of their own and adding five players from other teams over the course of the opening 10 days of the period.

But he did admit the Steelers would be taking a break.

"At this point, I can say, we're re-focusing," said Colbert. "We're not out of free agency, but we're really re-focusing on draft preparation. But like I said something could happen where a player becomes available …"

The Steelers usually wait out the opening phase of free agency each year, because that's typically when the ridiculous money is paid to a select few, with the $100 million given to Albert Haynesworth in 2009 and the $91.5 million to Julius Peppers about a week ago as the two most recent examples. The Steelers didn't go there, but they did act quickly in identifying the players they wanted and then got contracts done that fit into their structure.

"We never go into an offseason with x-number of players we want to sign," said Colbert, "however, there were players available we felt could help us, and we were able to make deals. Really, that's what it boils down to."

As always, the Steelers' primary focus as the offseason began was identifying the players it wanted to keep, and they accomplished that by getting new deals done with Casey Hampton and Ryan Clark and using the franchise tag on Jeff Reed to buy more time in working out something long-term with him as well.

Then the Steelers tried to strengthen their depth in the areas made possible by the available pool of players.

Arnaz Battle and Antwaan Randle El bolster a group of wide receivers that have Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, Mike Wallace and nothing else in the way of real NFL experience. If Trai Essex is considered a guard, there were no backup tackles on the roster with any game experience until Jonathan Scott was signed.

On defense, the team now has some injury insurance where the addition of Larry Foote gives the team a veteran to turn to in the event of an injury either to an inside linebacker or an outside linebacker. Will Allen can play either strong safety or free safety, and he and Battle both are versatile special teams additions.

"We had the flurry of activity, or however you want to say it, and we'll continue to monitor our own (free agents) as well as others," said Colbert, "but really the focus is going to shift more heavily toward the college draft."

Colbert also said the team has not closed the door on any of its own unrestricted free agents. That list currently includes quarterback Charlie Batch, running backs Carey Davis and Willie Parker, guard Darnell Stapleton, defensive ends Travis Kirschke and Nick Eason and defensive backs Deshea Townsend and Tyrone Carter.

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