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Narrowing it down to who fits best

When it began, there were 1,000. When it ends on Saturday, April 30 at around 4 p.m., there will be seven. The Steelers have spent a lot of time and money during the past calendar year to make sure they get the correct seven.

For the past 12 months or so, the Steelers player personnel department has been preparing for the 2011 NFL Draft, to be staged in just a few days, on April 28-30 to be exact. There have been Saturday afternoons spent at college football games, hours devoted to watching video, attending practices, attending college pro days, interviewing people about the prospects, interviewing the prospects themselves, delving into every aspect of a prospect's life, from his 40-speed to his health to his personal life. No stone is left unturned, every detail is checked.

"We started out with about 1,000 names," said Director of Football Operations Kevin Colbert on Monday during the team's pre-draft press conference. "I know we have roughly 400 more detailed, cumulative reports that include (evaluations from) several scouts and coaches. You narrow that down to about a 200-player draft pool."

From that point, the weeding process continues, but in areas other than a player's basic football abilities.

"We narrow those 200 down a little further, (until) there are about 160 who fit the Pittsburgh Steelers," said Colbert. "When I say that, we probably eliminated 40 or so guys based on character, medical or not really fitting our defense, more specifically guys who are a better fit for a 4-3 defense and not a 3-4.

"When you look at those 160, there are probably about 100 we think could improve our team and they are at all different levels throughout the draft."

That is where the luck of the draw often times comes into play on draft day. There could be a prospect the team has their eye on, and just seconds before the Steelers are on the clock, another team selects him. But Colbert, Coach Mike Tomlin and the entire staff make sure there are plenty of others to fall back on.

"Coach Tomlin and I have interviewed approximately 90 guys, personal one-on-one interviews, sometimes there is more than one interview involved, seeing them at the combine or their pro day or had them in for a visit," said Colbert. "We had the maximum 30 players in for the post-combine visits."

Colbert is an expert at the pre-draft process, and so he didn't tip his hand at all during the press conference, never mentioning a college player that the team is interested in nor giving any hint of what direction the team would go with its first-round pick or any others, but he did say there are some players the Steelers will have a chance to draft who could make an impact on the team.

"When we really break it down we probably see about 20 special players who we think are going to be unusual players in the league," said Colbert. "I think we can get a make-it type of player, a player who can make our roster and contribute, all the way through the sixth round if these numbers came off clean, which they never do. Realistically, we are going to be looking at guys who can help us throughout all seven rounds and hopefully we are going to be pick the right ones to do that.

"We are excited about our chances. We are going to draft for our team as we know it today. We can't talk about the CBA and anything along those lines, but we do know what our team is as of today and that is how we are going to approach this draft. Anything else would be unrealistic."

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