Waiting game: If Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert had it his way, it sounds like he would give rookies as much time to learn the system before throwing them into the fire. Not that he doesn't think they can handle it, but in the long-term it can be more beneficial for them to sit back and learn at the infancy stages of their career.
There are times, though, when those young players are thrown into the fire and it's worked out pretty well too.
"The people we draft, the longer we can keep them off the field the better for them historically," said Colbert. "There have been some players Maurkice Pouncey, first year starter, great player. Ben (Roethlisberger) was forced to play because Tommy Maddox got hurt and obviously the results were great. But you really want to go in with these players and delay them getting on the field as long as you can because over time I think Coach would get comfortable with what they can do. But to have them step out and play, more often than not I think it is more detrimental to the player and if he loses his confidence early it's usually not returnable."
Last year's number one draft pick Terrell Edmunds saw extensive playing time because of injuries in the secondary, and there was improvement as the season wore on.
"His play was above the line, but it wasn't born out of an opportunity earned," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "It was really just out of the lack of availability for others, so you are less comfortable with that. But his play was above the line."
Home grown: The Steelers have had a long-standing tradition of building through the draft, bringing in young guys and seeing them develop. Yes, the team has signed their share of free agents, but the draft is the primary source for building the team's roster.
"In professional football, NFL football, the best way is to draft and keep your own," said Colbert. "It's a team game, it's something that we try to draft the right people and if we like what we are seeing keep them in the mix and plug in the free agent where the free agent works. We always talk about the one, two, and three, those players should be significant players that we draft and if we don't have those guys work out the way you predicted they would, then that creates an issue where you may have to sign more free agents than you liked.
"I know we'll always believe in building through the draft and enhancing it with free agency. I think you see more of that happening throughout the National Football League. Teams believe in the same type of thing because there are less free agents available and sometimes that creates really a better market for some of the people to make it to free agency that we'd like to engage in."
Roster update: NFL teams can have up to 90 players on their roster, although the Steelers are permitted 91 because of Christian Scotland-Williamson, the tight end who is exempt as part of the international player program.
The roster currently sits at 74, but that will quickly change heading into the draft. The Steelers have a total of 10 draft picks, and would have some room to add undrafted rookie free agents following the draft.
"When you look at the roster, 51 of those (74) players have NFL experience," said Colbert. "Not to say that is good enough because we are where we are, but again 51 guys on this roster have played at some level in the NFL as an active player. The addition of the three veterans, Steve Nelson, Mark Barron and Donte Moncrief, we think enhances the roster as it's made up at this point. But really the signing of those three does not preclude us from doing anything from a draft standpoint. When we are going to be making additions to this roster it will be from the bottom up and that is encouraging no matter what round we are going to be working in."