2009 Steelers Post-Draft Press Conference Director of Football Operations Kevin Colbert and Head Coach Mike Tomlin
Kevin Colbert:As we say every year, you never say that you had a bad recruiting class - you never feel you are going to be disappointed with your draft picks. We certainly have that feeling right now. We entered this day with eight picks, and we felt that we were going to get people to help us at all different levels, kind of like we felt when we started this whole process. I'm sure Coach Zierlein was down here talking about Kraig Urbik. He is a nice, big guy who we think can compete for an interior offensive line spot with us. Mike Wallace is one of the fastest receivers in this draft. To go along with that size, he is right around 200 pounds. He will also give us somebody who can compete for a kick returning spot. Keenan Lewis is a nice-sized corner who is just under 6-1. He is a 4.4 kid. He played a ton of man-to-man coverage so he will need some work in zone coverage. The size and the speed and the man-to-man abilities of this player were very intriguing. Joe Burnett, when you match his production with any corner in this draft, it was right up there. He was highly productive with PBUs, interceptions, punt returns and kick returns. This is a highly productive player that we think will add nice competition and depth to us. Frank Summers is a thick running back. When you see him, the first guy that he reminded me of, although a little bit shorter, but he is built like Duce Staley. He is a thick guy who runs hard and runs thick. He will not only give us a running back, but he will give us some special teams cover ability. Sonny Harris is another big body who can move. He really played in a three-technique or a five-technique at Oregon. He can probably play end and nose for us. Again, a nice, big body who can move. A.Q. Shipley, I am sure you are familiar with who he is – a local kid from Moon High School. He played at Penn State and did a great job. You are going to hear a ton about how he is short and his arms are only 29 inches, but once we figure out a way to measure a heart, then we will be on to something. A.Q. is a productive, tough player. That is what we were looking for in these late rounds. David Johnson is a tight end. He is more of a move-type tight end – he is not the typical 6-4, 6-5 guy but more the 6-2 guy who can move and play some H-back or fullback. We are real happy with how this turned out. We think we got a lot of guys who can compete and add some depth and hopefully allow us to win some games.
Head Coach Mike Tomlin:I like the nicknames. We have Ziggy Hood; we have Sonny Harris; we have Frank "The Tank" Summers. We set out talking about what we were looking for in this draft – high-quality people, humble guys and guys who can fit in. All of these guys fit that bill. They have nice resumes – three and four-year bodies of work on almost all of these guys. Things that we evaluate like toughness, intelligence – these guys display that. This was a great day for us. I felt that we were able to get some things done, and Kevin detailed that. We were pleased.
You said this needed to be a special draft – did you accomplish that?
Colbert: Only time will tell. I said that fully understanding where this team is and where we want this team to be – And acknowledging that we weren't big players in free agency. Players have to come from somewhere and the draft has always been this organizations source of talent and it's our job to make sure that continues.
When you traded out of round two – did you end up with the guys in round three you were planning on?
*Colbert: Yeah we did. There was a group in there and there were other guys other than the three we picked in the third round, but that group definitely – we looked at it and we knew we had a couple players at each position that we were looking at and if we got lucky we'd be able to get three. We were really targeting an offensive lineman, a corner and a receiver with those three picks. We felt we could come out of that and which we did.
*RE: Given yourself options on return game:
*Tomlin: *Mike Wallace is a credible return guy as a kickoff return man. He has multiple returns for touchdowns in his career and (Joe) Burnett is as productive as anybody in that area. I think he's got a five as a combination as a punt and kick return guy. We feel like we've given ourselves some candidates in that regard. We realize that's a potential weakness in our football team. Maybe these young men are the answer to that. We look forward to watching them work.
*Who are some of the other candidates for the return game? Stefan Logan?
Tomlin: Sure, he's a guy we acquired of course in the off-season and put in our winter program who's been working hard and long. We still view Mewelde Moore as a viable option. He got pressed into some other duties last year due to circumstances when we lost a number of running backs. That was the intent when we acquired him; he's still capable of that – Santonio Holmes etc. But we're excited about these young guys and the resume they were able to put together in that regard in college football.
The corner from the Colts, Ratliff – return punts?
*Tomlin: He's returned some punts – that hasn't been part of the consideration in terms of acquiring him. He's a good solid veteran corner who's played some football – particularly in sub-package football and get off downs.
Mike Wallace had tough times – do you know about the story and do you appreciate what he's going through?
*Tomlin: Yes, very familiar with that story. I spoke down in Knoxville at the University of Tennessee several weeks back and their wide receiver coach at Tennessee was not only familiar with him, but also Keenan Lewis – he coached those guys since they were in seventh grade. I heard detail information about their story, but it's not a secret. I think people that prepare for the draft knew the story of those young men and specifically Wallace and what he and his family went through in terms of being relocated and how it affected is senior year and recruiting process and all of that. Those kind of life experiences harden you and let's face it, the National Football League game is a game for the mentally tough – and we believe some of his life experiences will be a help to him as he transitions to the pro game because of course that's not going to be easy.
*Is Summers a candidate to do some goal line work?
*Tomlin: He is. When you put the UNLV tape on, very rarely does he get dropped in the backfield. Short yardage goal line situations have been an asset of his game. I think he got into the end zone ten times or so this year. But aside from what he's able to do with the ball in his hand – an attractive feature for us was a big running back like him who is also a functional special team's player. This guy was a productive special team's player. He cover kicks – he covered punts – he was an up-back if you will in the kickoff return game. You know we're looking for guys that are capable a lot of things. Here's a guy that works in an area that usually doesn't have a bunch of position flexibility with the people that occupy those roles. He's a big powerful back who is not a fish out of water in the special team's game and that's attractive to us.
Did you see the you-tube clip?
Tomlin: I did, but that did not weigh in his evaluation for us. That was in high school – I did some things in high school.
Lewis and Wallace went to school together. Do you think that will help them with their transition?
*Tomlin:I think you've got to make your own plays. They have to stand up and deliver. Maybe it will be comforting off the field in terms of getting transitioned and being able to look around and see a familiar face. But in terms of making the plays required to be a part of this thing and do what's required, it's every man for himself. That's just the nature of this game and of this business. I'm sure they are excited. I think when we were on the phone with Keenan Lewis this afternoon, he said he was going to take his party over to Mike Wallace's house and they were going to have a good time together. That's kind of a neat story.
At times, did the short yardage and goal line thing get a little frustrating for you?
Tomlin: *No, I enjoyed it.
*Was there anything about those two kids (Wallace and Lewis) that lead you to one or the other, or is that just a unique coincidence?
Colbert:Not really. The fact that they grew up together and went to school together really didn't play into things until we picked both of them. Mike was somebody that was interesting because he's a speed receiver that can return kicks, and Keenan was a big corner. But, really, their relationship, we really didn't talk about it until afterward. We knew about it, but it wasn't a factor.
What goes into a short-yardage guy? Are there intangibles? Is it a physical kind of thing?
Tomlin:It's a feel for the game. It's knowing where to put the ball, but it's also physicality – the ability to have great pad level and leg drive and be determined not to get knocked backwards.
And is that the characteristics of Summers?
Tomlin: *He does have some of those characteristics at the collegiate level. We'll see.
*This day is approaching nine hours long now. What is this day like for you? Is it full of surprises, or do you have it so mapped out that it goes pretty much according to plan?
*Tomlin: *I wouldn't necessarily characterize it as surprises. I think that Kevin and the scouting staff did a great job of developing and preparing the board. Really, we were very methodical about the things that we wanted to do, not only today, but leading up to today. I thought it was critical when we made the decision last night to go with three 3's [third-round picks] and have four picks in the top 96 picks in the draft. We're excited about being able to do that and getting some quality. And we feel like we did that. We got four players in the first three rounds in areas that we wanted to get players – some big, young people in the offensive and defensive line, a wideout with some speed capabilities that is capable of stretching the field, hopefully similar to the way that Nate Washington did, who's also a kick returner, and a six-foot corner who can run. It was a productive day. A long day, yes, but those are challenges that inspire you and that fire you up when you do what it is that we do.
*With nine draft picks, how will that affect signing free agents?
Colbert:It will be somewhere around 10 to 12. We'll be working on that as soon as this concludes. We may over-sign at a couple of positions because we can. We can be over 80 [players] until we sign our draft picks. So we could be a little bit higher. During the mini-camps and the OTAs. But we'll see what kind of response we get. Sometimes, we're really desparate just trying to find a guy and sometimes we wind up with an extra guy. It's kind of like college recruiting. You can only promise so many scholarships and you may have to pull one, or we may have to add one somewhere along the way. It will be somewhere around 10 to 12.
Do any of your draft choices have to wait before they can work out here?
Tomlin:No, I think we're clean.
Colbert: *No, we're good because the kids that are quarter-school guys have their degrees.
*You mentioned A.Q.'s heart. That being said, why do you think he lasted this long in this draft?
*Colbert:I can't answer that. Again, we all want the biggest, the fastest, all the measurables. And you're not going to get that. I always tell players [that] 90 percent of their evaluation is from August until December – what we see them do on the field. This kid was a productive player. When we'd interview defensive linemen – when we interview any position, we always ask them who was the toughest offensive lineman you went against, and vice versa – and we got A.Q.'s name quite often. So I can't answer why he lasted. We're happy to get him where we got him because we think he'll come in and he'll compete.
Can you talk about Hines [Ward] yet?
Colbert: *Oh, yeah. Hines is official. He did sign.
*Are you glad to get that done?
Colbert: *I think everybody in the organization wanted that and we want to see Hines conclude his career here much like Jerome [Bettis] did because he's been such a big part of the organization and especially a big part of our success in the last couple of years. You want a player like that to finish in a Steeler uniform. He was committed to that and we were committed to that. And, thankfully, it worked out.
*Mike, what are your thoughts on that?
Tomlin: *You love Hines because I don't know if the five-year contract in his mind allows him to finish [as] a Steeler. That's just how he's wired. He embodies what's important to us as far as how he approaches the game. He's a football player first and a wide receiver second; a great leader for us, a productive player, a guy that's got a passion for the game, a desire to win and compete. He's Hines. We all know him and love him. I'm really glad that the deal got done.
*You have brought rookies along slow since you've been here. Is that by design?
Tomlin:Really it's just more of a function that we have a pretty good football team. We're not going to anoint anyone or hand jobs to anyone. They've got to earn it. Part of them doing that is having an opportunity. There haven't been many opportunities for some of our young people because our veteran players have been so solid. So it's been a good thing, actually. I'm a proponent of that. I think that in order for somebody to really appreciate what this league is about, they have to earn it. So it's been a good thing. Because of what happened here in recent years is no indication of what's going to happen with these young men. Maybe some men in this group are not enamored by the transition, are quick studies and are competitive and able to produce. And maybe they'll be on the field for us because of it.
That being said, Kraig Urbik, the guard, what do you like best about this guy? And with Kendall [Simmons] gone, might he be a candidate to start this year?
Tomlin:He could. He's a right guard, of course, a four-year right guard from Wisconsin. He's a big guy. He'll fight you. He has the characteristics of those Wisconsin linemen. He's a smart guy. We'll see how he transitions. He'll be definitely given an opportunity to show what he's capable of.
How much can you take from what you see at mini-camp?
Tomlin:You know I'm not a big proponent of football in shorts. The rookie mini-camp, for me, is about teaching. It's about getting to know these guys to see how they take in information, to see how they deal with the ups and downs of good plays and bad plays from an assignment standpoint. But football will be played in Latrobe.* *