Labriola On

Labriola on Peters, Shazier, interviews

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Ready or not, here it comes:*

  • OK, all you cornerback-starved Steelers fans, you're on the clock. Are you drafting Marcus Peters?
  • Marcus Peters is someone who has prototypical size for the position at 6-foot, 197 pounds. He's physical with receivers, and he also has the ability to turn and run with them. He had eight interceptions over his first two college seasons. His time in the 40-yard dash at the Combine was only 4.53, but scouts who have studied him on video believe he has good enough competitive speed.
  • Marcus Peters also was suspended for one game in 2014 for a sideline tantrum that followed an on-field personal foul penalty. He ultimately was dismissed from the University of Washington program for repeated run-ins with the coaching staff. Peters did deny that he choked a coach during practice but wouldn't go into detail about what resulted in him being kicked off the team.
  • Is Marcus Peters the kind of guy who's going to develop his talents and become a productive NFL player? Or is he too undisciplined both on the field and off the field to succeed?
  • Categorizing character issues is something all NFL teams will be doing between now and the first day of the 2015 NFL Draft, which is Thursday, April 30. What's real? What is fabricated? Are the really bad things being glossed over? Or does the person dishing dirt on the individual exaggerating because he has an ax to grind?

A look behind the scenes at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

  • The first chance for an NFL team to get face-to-face time with any player is at the Combine, but those interviews are limited to 15 minutes and the kid has been coached for those interviews by professionals. Sometimes it's almost to the degree that if the player responded to football coaching the way he responded to this pre-interview coaching, well, just say things would have a better chance of working out for the best.
  • "You try to quantify the intangibles," explained General Manager Kevin Colbert at the Combine about the task of determining which players have real character issues. "It's hard. We can figure out how fast a guy is and how big a guy is. We can verify that. That's easy. But to verify a guy's character, it's next to impossible because there are so many intangible issues that go into a person. Once we verify what is real and not real, what degree of risk do we want to put on that player or that person?"
  • One of the things the Steelers have implemented is that after all of the research done throughout the scouting process, after all of the interviews and re-interviews with the prospect, after talking to the college strength coach and his high school coach and people from his hometown … after all of that … if the Steelers decide to draft this player, then they re-interview him once he reports for rookie minicamp.
  • The idea behind this is that after the draft, the pressure is off the kid. He was picked where he was picked, and there's nothing to be done about that anymore. In this interview he's more likely to tell the unvarnished truth, and the Steelers at least have a clearer picture of what kind of support this individual might need to become a productive player and one who can stay on the straight and narrow off the field.
  • During the week spent at the Combine, Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin interviewed about 60 players. All told, including other scouts and assistant coaches, the Steelers as an organization interviewed close to 250 players.
  • Consider this the next time someone in the media uses the "Mike Tomlin talked to so-and-so at the Combine" as a way to intimate some special interest by the team in a particular player.
  • Right now, the Steelers only are engaged in simple information gathering. Don't make too much of the fact, for example, that Tomlin met with Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams at the Combine. Because he met with 59 others, too.
  • Here's something I don't understand: How can Steelers fans simultaneously complain about younger guys not getting on the field quickly enough while also hoping for one more season from an aging veteran?
  • It's the aging veteran who's keeping the young guy off the field. You can't have it both ways.
  • In the past few days, the Steelers have been re-doing some contracts to clear room under the salary cap. Reports are that this already has been done with Marcus Gilbert and Mike Mitchell, and that Antonio Brown and Maurkice Pouncey are being talked to as well.
  • Understand that "re-doing" these contracts does not mean the player is getting less money. It's all bookkeeping for salary cap purposes, and in fact in many cases the player ends up getting some of his salary paid in advance in the form of a signing bonus. It's a good deal for the player.
  • The Steelers aren't taking these bookkeeping steps in order to be under the salary cap when it kicks in at 4 p.m. on March 10. They're doing it to have some room to sign players – their own free agents and other teams' free agents.
  • Enough already with the suggestions to move Ryan Shazier to safety, or to outside linebacker, or to whatever position tickles some fan's imagination and moves him to suggest this foolishness. How about giving Shazier more than 15 minutes to learn the position he was drafted to play?
  • And if Shazier can't handle the position he played throughout college, the position he was drafted to play, what makes anyone believe he could switch to one he never played and master it while competing at the highest level of his profession?
  • I talked to Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin at the Combine last week, too. Just sayin'.
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