Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert is attending the NFL Annual Meetings and addressed the media on a wide variety of topics. The following is what Colbert had to say.On CB William Gay:We knew him leaving was a possibility. We had been in contact with him. His representatives had been in contact with us. We were aware of his trips and that he was going to get offers. He got an offer that he took.Did the Steelers make him one?We were in discussions with him, yes.Do you think you have the young guys that can handle stepping up in his place?We will find out. It is just like when Bryant McFadden left us and William Gay had to step up and be the starter. You never know if the guys coming up are starter capable until they have to play 16 games. Over the course of 16 games we will find out.Does that change your draft priorities at all?No. We always understood that there was a possibility we could lose a guy like William Gay. We have three young guys in the mix. That doesn't stop us from addressing that position in the draft and it really doesn't alter any preparation we are doing at this point. Does the cap situation make it hard to sign your own guys?We tried to guesstimate what players were going to get and if we could handle it. I am sure the other teams are aware of it as well. You monitor and see if it was doable. If not then we move on. At this point we are moving on.On Jerricho Cotchery:He is an unrestricted free agent, much like William Gay was. He's made a few visits. We've been in contact with his people. We will continue to follow that and see where it leads. On Casey Hampton taking a pay cut:I won't talk about individual contracts. You'd have to ask the player. To me, that's any part of negotiation. We never discuss the terms.Any more cuts?As I said earlier, once we got into free agency, this could continue to evolve. I think I said we were done up to the point when free agency started. We will do whatever we have to do to field the best team in 2012 and that can include more subtractions. On replacing James Farrior at inside linebacker:That's a decision Coach (Mike) Tomlin will make over time. We have Larry Foote and Stevenson Sylvester. We will see where the competition leads to. That doesn't preclude us from adding somebody in free agency or in the draft. We will see how it goes.
On Jason Worilds or Chris Carter playing inside:
I would think they could. They are both young players. We know more about Jason Worilds because he had to play more last year when (James) Harrison and (LaMarr) Woodley were hurt. He's never played inside, nor has Chris Carter. We know the least about Chris Carter because he was a fifth-round draft pick and we didn't have any OTAs to work with him. He was injured for a good part of the season. He is an unknown. I would think either of them playing inside is it a possibility, yes. But is it something we've talked about at this point, no.
On Willie Colon possibly playing guard:
That's a question for Coach Tomlin. If we were to start the season today, Colon would line up as a tackle.
With Colon and Marcus Gilbert, does that make tackle less of a priority in the draft?
No. I think you can always add a young offensive lineman and never hurt yourself.
On drafting a player that would start two to three years down the road, not during his rookie season:
When we draft a player, we never put an expectation as to when he can come in. As we've seen over time, that changes due to your team's circumstances. The best example in my tenure has been Ben Roethlisberger. He wasn't expected to play and all of a sudden had to. I don't think we can ever limit or put a time limit on when they need to start or want them to start or will start. We have to wait and see how circumstances play out.
On Byron Leftwich:
Byron is unrestricted like the other guys. We are in contact with his people and we have been. Where that goes, we don't know. It's the same with Charlie Batch.
On possibly bringing both back:
If it's possible, sure. We have two guys that we've signed in the offseason in Troy Smith and Jerrod Johnson. We are excited to see what they can bring too.
Can those new guys work out?
They can work out on their own in our facility.
Can they go on the field and work?
Not in our presence.
Is there any more clarity in the draft?
It's shaping up pretty much like we thought it would. I am still excited about it. The more we get out to the pro days it makes me feel better about the quality of the draft at all different levels. Every time we go out, we discover something new about a prospect. Sometimes we discover new prospects that we thought were suspect, and vice versa. Pro days help us sort all that stuff out.
What is it like when you are looking for a replacement for Casey Hampton?
We never scout position specific. We just look at the player and what that player can and cannot do for us. We never evaluate a player and think he could be the next guy at a position. We just evaluate them as players and see how they fit in.
On fitting into your system:
You can evaluate them fitting into your system but not necessarily compare them to a player that is already playing. It's kind of unfair to the young guys to compare them.
Are you feeling any better about re-signing Mike Wallace after seeing all of the signings?
I don't know. Restricted free agency can go up to the week before the draft. That's always going to be there until that time. I couldn't tell you what could happen around the league. It really doesn't concern us, because again, ultimately it's our decision.
Would you have enough money to match?
Yeah, ultimately it's our call. That's the way you have to leave it because you don't know about the specifics. The one thing we do know is we will make the decision above anyone else.
Since you have been here there have been RFAs who signed somewhere else, correct?
Yes, Kris Brown and Rodney Bailey.
What did you get for Bailey?
A sixth-round pick.
Can you sign both Wallace and Antonio Brown when he is up?
You are looking way into the future there. That's way too far down the road. We are dealing with 2012 at this moment. I don't know what we will be able to do this week or next.* *We look at our situation as it stands today. We try to monitor what is going on around the league as well as our own players. We just monitor it and see what we can do.
Are you nervous about Brown in the future with his contract?
No. Ultimately we control it.
Do you see anyone that was released coming back?
No. When we terminated those players we felt that their time as a Steeler was over and it was time for everybody to move forward.
On Farrior thinking he could come back if there was an injury:
I think when they all left they know that you can never say never. But they also know that was their last time as a Steeler.
On Max Starks:
He's an unrestricted free agent. That is still a possibility. We have to monitor it because it is unique to his injury situation. We just have to wait and see.
On rule changes:The horse-collar is something we proposed. It obviously makes sense to include the most valuable player on every team in that protection. I really never understood why it wasn't there to begin with. People will argue, and the argument has been that there is incidental contact when trying to sack the quarterback. Our argument to that is what is the difference between this and a facemask? We took away all the incidental facemasks and made them 15-yard penalties. To us there are inconsistencies in the protection of every team's most valuable player.
Has it happened to Ben Roethlisberger?
It happened to him a few years back. He got dragged down, and that's where we started the discussion. It's never gotten to this point so we will see how teams react to it. Everybody has a quarterback that they should be interested in protecting.
What is the most significant rule change that could be made?
There are not a lot of rules that are up. We think the overtime rule, because we submitted it, is something that is very significant. We should play under the same rules for our most important games, not just the playoff games but the regular season games as well. We felt that way when they passed this originally. We just didn't have enough support at the time.
Is this team at a crossroads?
The biggest thing we lost from the terminations we had was leadership. That wasn't disregarded when we made these decisions, but we had to make them. Leadership is an intangible that you cannot predict. I don't know who will emerge as our leaders. It will be interesting to see whose team this becomes, because James Farrior was the team leader, not just the defensive leader. He was the guy. We will see who steps up. To me it's wide open. It's something you can never predict because you don't know who is going to show up when it is required.
Do you have some guys who are already leaders?
I don't know. We will find out. I can't sit here today and say this is our leader. We are looking for that right now.* *That's where the team is. From a talent standpoint we are never in a rebuilding mode. I think we are retooling. We lost one starter with William Gay leaving us. We have the majority of the team back, so we will see how this group shapes up.
On Cotchery and Wallace possibly leaving:I don't get nervous because in one situation, we control that. I know that Jerricho has an interest in staying. I think he has a strong interest in staying but he has to make a decision for himself. It's not like he is looking to leave. I think he will leave if he thinks it is best for him and his family. I think deep down he wants to stay.
Does Rashard Mendenhall's status alter what you do in the draft?
No it doesn't. To clarify, I said I never think players coming off an ACL injury are 100% recovered for a full year. That doesn't mean he can't play. I just don't think they are 100%. We will have Rashard back at some point this season. I am confident in that. We don't know when. We won't know that until he moves further down the road. We feel confident with the young guys we have that someone in that group will emerge and fill that role, somebody or a group of the guys will fill it out.
On John Clay and Baron Batch:We've seen Clay minimally. We've seen Batch in training camp. When you replace a starter you can't say you replaced a starter until he goes 16 games and you win.
Is the jury still out on Isaac Redman?
Sure, he's never had to carry the load for 16 games. None of them have. None of the guys we have in competition to play have played a full season. That remains unknown.
On Mewelde Moore:We will monitor him and see where we stand. We haven't done much in free agency, nor do we plan on it at this point, but that can change up until the start of the regular season.
Are running backs devalued in the draft?
I don't think so. If a running back is a great player then you better take him high. We don't think that. I don't understand all that value, positionally or anything like that. I don't think there's any position you wouldn't take in the first round if they were a great player. Why would you lock yourselves into not taking a great player because you think you could get a similar player down the road? I think that's where you make a mistake.
On not drafting a wide receiver high but still having success:To the receivers credit, they've probably all exceeded their draft position, which is great for them. If you like a guy you better take him. There are different reasons guys last at different levels. There are great players that sign as free agents that get drafted from the first to the seventh round. I can't tell you why.
On moving up in the draft:We can go either way. We could sit still.What is the most difficult part of scouting offensive linemen?The systems that the majority of the guys are coming out of now are not pro systems. You have to make a lot of judgments based on athleticism, intelligence and toughness rather than just pure execution of techniques similar to what they are going to be asked to do at our level. That's not just for offensive linemen. Receivers run different routes. Tight ends, if they have a tight end, or the running backs or quarterbacks aren't doing the same types of things. That's the world we live in when evaluating. We have to adapt to it.
Would you draft a quarterback?Sure, absolutely we would. We aren't going to take a quarterback in the first round. But beyond that I would never close the door. In the second round, what if there is a guy there that you thought was going to be a first-round guy. If that happens at any position you have to be prepared to deal with it.
On drafting Brett Keisel late in 2002 and why he fell so far?
When Brett came out a little smaller than we like our defensive linemen, but we thought he had the potential to get bigger, which he did. He had the athleticism and the toughness that we liked. He was playing in a 4-3 up the field scheme which is what he wasn't going to be asked to do here. Most of our defensive lineman, similar to our offensive lineman, there are not a lot of 3-4 defenses in college. You have to project a lot of guys into positions.
Do you need a kicker?
Not that I know of.
Would you draft one?
On misses in the second and third rounds of the draft:There are a lot of misses in the first round.
Why don't you guys miss?
Knock on wood, I don't know. We've been fortunate. We are capable as anybody of making a mistake. We never keep score. There's only one score that matters and that's the last game of the year.