Director of Football Operations Kevin Colbert and Coach Mike Tomlin
Kevin Colbert: Again as we say every year we've never had a bad draft class, like no one's ever had a bad recruiting class. We're happy to have all these young men. It was a fun day having this many picks, it was the most I think we've ever had since I've been here. And it was nice to have some options on the third day really. We think we got some good players. We already talked about Maurkice, I know Coach Butler talked about Jason Worilds. But Jason Worilds is a very athletic guy, who can get after the quarterback. Teams started paying more attention to him this year and his sack production went down. But he was just as effective and just as disruptive, and probably had his best game of the year in his last game against Tennessee. Emmanuel Sanders a very fast and productive receiver who had his best year this year with Coach Jones in the run-and-shoot offense catching 98 balls and also supplementing that with punt returns. He really came to the forefront. We had evaluated him during the fall, but at the East-West he really stood out among the wide receivers. The more work we did the better we liked him, including having him here for a visit. Thaddeus Gibson is a big kid and he's fast. Ohio State probably plays as close to our defense schematically as any college football team in the country. So Thaddeus is coming out of a system where he's done a lot of the things we're going to ask him to do here. Thaddeus and Jason are both, like Maurkice, underclassmen as was Jonathan Dwyer. So we actually took four underclassmen, so we think there's still some growing there for those guys. Chris Scott a big guy that's played both tackles and guard, played with Ramon Foster at Tennessee. He played against top competition and is a nice big versatile offensive lineman. Crezdon Butler is a fast corner. He's another young corner to bring along. He had a big year; I think he ended up with 11 career interceptions. He had one interception this year, they went through a little bit of a defensive scheme change and his production dropped this season. But again we really like his size and his speed. Stevenson Sylvester has played inside he can play outside, I will let Coach address where he will play, he'll probably be an inside linebacker for us, but he has the versatility to play both. Jonathan Dwyer, this kid's had 1,300 yards in each of the last two years. He's a big kid, with deceptive speed and productivity. And again as a junior you still think he hasn't reached his full potential yet. Antonio Brown, I think he was a 100- plus catches at Central Michigan, punt and kickoff returner, a very productive guy. And our last pick Doug Worthington, defensive end, again like Thaddeus he's played in a scheme similar to ours. He has the body to play our five technique, and he's just a nice size guy to have at that position. I think when you throw in Bryant McFadden and Byron Leftwich two players we were able to pick up using picks that we acquired this year. We really think this is a nice class and we're anxious to see them go to work.
Mike Tomlin: Again, quality depth and competition has been our mantra here for the offseason. We followed that plan in free agency and we were able to follow that plan here in the draft as well. We truly believe that we strengthened ourselves for the challenges that await us here in the 2010 season. It's going to be fun to watch these guys carve out roles for themselves along with some of the new veteran players that we acquired and we're excited about it.
Can you talk a little bit about the decision to acquire Bryant McFadden and why?
MT: This is a guy, of course, that has been a part of two world championship teams here in Pittsburgh. We know the player. We know the person. He's well respected by his teammates. He's capable of playing winning football for us at a high level. We were presented with an opportunity to bring him back into the fold. And, really, we jumped at it. He's a quality person and a good football player, one that we know and have a history with. As you can see, we followed that theme or plan here in several instances in the offseason. Larry Foote, Byron Leftwich, Antwaan Randle El. We've got some guys that know what it means to be Pittsburgh Steelers, understand the culture that we have here, and get along great with the men that we already have.
Did Bryant fall out of favor with them? Why would a guy like that be available?
KC: You'd have to get, really, a more definitive answer from Arizona. I think that they felt that they have some younger guys that they are willing to go with. They initiated the call. It was actually a couple of days ago. We kept in contact. We weren't going to give up a draft pick. Bryant only had one year left on his contract. So we knew the possibility of him coming to us was real. They gave us permission to talk to the agent as far as negotiating a longer term deal, which we did. He's agreed to a three-year deal. So in order for us to give up a pick, we wanted to make sure that we had more than one season, which we got. So it was fine to bring Bryant back in. He's 30 years old. As Coach said, he's started on two Super Bowl teams, and he comes right back into the locker room. And I think that's really important when you add a guy like he or Larry [Foote] or Antwaan [Randle El] or Byron [Leftwich]. The guys know who they are getting back and I think they will accept them.
Dwyer played in a triple-option offense. How does that transition to him playing in the pro game? Also, there were some reports that had him going as high as the second or third round.
KC: It's more of a double-wing option, for lack of a better term from a non coach, as I am. There were times, like in short yardage, where he would actually line up in an I [formation], or when they ran draws where he'd get more depth when he was running the ball. And you saw him do some important things. This kid has broken a lot of long runs. I think his average was 6.2 [yards per carry] for his career. Like I said, [he has gained] 2,600 yards over the last two years as the starter. So there were some signs in there that, in a more conventional offense, this kid should be able to do it. And, again, [he is] a young guy without a lot of hits on his body. We think there is something there that we probably all haven't seen yet. We hope that's the case.
Is it safe to say that you probably could not have gotten a more NFL-ready player than McFadden if you had drafted a cornerback?
MT: No question. In one instance, you are projecting what people are capable of on NFL stages or fields, if you will. And in another instance, which is the case with Bryant McFadden, you know what you are getting. You know what you are getting in September through December football. But you also know [that] this is a guy that can stand up and play winning football for you in January, which he's done for us in the past.
How are you going to get two guys to develop at outside linebacker behind two Pro Bowl players?
MT: First and foremost, I hope they are capable of [being] kickoff coverage unit men. That would be the first job description that they have. If they can do an adequate job of that, then we'll get to see if they are capable of rushing the passer. They are two quality, young, 250-pound-ish men, if you will. Of course, we value that here in Pittsburgh. We believe that's a formula for winning football. They are big guys that can run. They love to play the game in a physical manner. We're looking for those guys to contribute in whatever ways that we ask them. Outside linebacker is their position or job description. But we have a vision of these guys being competitive and adding quality depth not only at that position, but also big-time competition in the special teams element of our game.
Is there more competition for returning guys too?
MT: Yes. Again, Antwaan Randle El is capable, of course, but we also acquired some men in this draft, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown who also have that on their resume on the collegiate level.
What did Phil Bennett tell you about Emmanuel Sanders?
MT: We just talked about what kind of young man he was, we didn't talk too much about the football element of it, he had nothing but great things to say about him as a person.
There's been a lot of speculation about Ben. Is he your guy moving forward?
KC: I think the safest way to answer that, Scott, and really not speaking for coach or the organization; but really we can't defend the behavior or actions, and as an organization we won't. But we do defend his opportunity to make right. And I think that's the right thing to do. This guy has helped us win two championships and he's made some mistakes, but he also deserves the opportunity to rectify those mistakes, and I know that we stand behind his opportunity to do that.
What's your strategy to sign players that didn't get drafted?
KC: Well once the draft is over, we will sign, currently with the draft picks, we're at 82. We could sign up to, if my math's correct, 90, because the draft picks won't count until they are signed. Actually, 91 because we started the day with 71, we won't go to that number, but we will be signing anywhere from five to seven free agents, and we'll do that shortly. We'll probably be done in about an hour or two.
With all the former Steelers becoming Steelers again, there were reports that Alan Faneca is about to be let go by the Jets. Do you have any interest in him?
KC: I would say that any veteran free agents that are potential signees, we wouldn't comment on one way or another. But I don't think we will be signing anymore veterans at this point. There's probably going to be teams that flush out some veterans as they sign their own kids, draft picks, or free agents through mini-camps. So we'll always adjust. But at this moment we don't plan on signing any veteran guys.
Have you talked with Ben recently? And if so, is he eager to get back to what he has to do to move forward?
MT: Yes, I think that's his mindset. He is going to make a comment regarding the discipline of the Commissioner on Monday. I'll let him do that. But it's my understanding, at this point, that he's ready to meet those challenges and take the necessary steps to move forward with his career.
Since everything is sort of played out with Ben's return, how do you balance the competition to figure out who's going to start when Ben isn't available? And what do you do when Ben is ready to come back and how do you balance that?
MT: Well what we know at this point is that he is going to be unavailable for at least the first four football games of the season. We've got three guys that we're very comfortable with playing. We will use the rest of the organized team activity days to kind of sort through and get some information in regards to where those guys are. And then we're going to make some hard and fast decisions going into training camp because the reality is you can't get four guys ready to play in a camp. We'll make that decision at that time. Right now, we're going to work with all three of these men that will of course be a part of the program in the short term and see where they are. We will get reacquainted with Byron Leftwich. Of course, Charlie Batch is coming off an injury and Dennis Dickson is an emerging young guy. There are many reps to be had. A lot of teaching needs to be done. We're going to do that. And we'll make a decision prior to going to Latrobe about how we're going to go about divvying up the work load, if you will.
Kevin, after the Pouncey pick, you said things were falling right into place and going accordingly. How did the rest of the draft go? Was it pretty much according to plan?
KC: Yes, Coach and I just spoke to the scouts and the coaches and we thank them for their efforts in putting this thing together. And when you put it together, and everybody worked at it, and you get them up there correctly, they're going to come off correctly. And we followed our board to a tee. We never varied from that board. We had some close decisions on positions we were going to take. We had the McFadden thing in the back of our mind. The whole time, as the draft unfolded, we knew that was an option for us at some point. So really, it came together very well. We just hope they can all play.