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Steelers value draft prospect interviews

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To the college draft prospects who had a chance to talk with Steelers' Coach Mike Tomlin or General Manager Kevin Colbert during the pre-draft process…pay attention when the team is on the clock.

Chances are good if one of them interviewed you, whether it was at the combine, a pro day, a bowl game, at the team's practice facility, and so forth, you could be one of the eight players the Steelers select in the 2015 NFL Draft.

The Steelers don't have a set policy on only drafting players they have spoken with during the process, but when asked how often the team drafts a player that neither Colbert nor Tomlin have spoken to personally, the answer made it clear.

"Not very," said Colbert during the team's pre-draft press conference on Monday. "There have probably only been a handful since Coach and I have been together."

Now, keep in mind, Colbert and Tomlin combined for about 130 one-on-one interviews with draft prospects this offseason, so there are a lot of possibilities out there with not a lot of spots to fill.

"We try to touch base with as many as we can," said Colbert. "Short of the personal one-on-one, all of the kids are videoed at the combine so we can supplement if we have to. But very rarely have we drafted someone who we haven't interviewed."

The Steelers value that personal contact, giving them a chance to learn a little more about the player away from the field, away from practice. It's a take the helmet off, put the shoulder pads down, and tell me what makes you tick type of meeting.

"There is value in sharing the same space with a person," said Tomlin. "Getting to watch them in their setting, at their university, interacting among their peers, to hear what others informally and formally have to say about them. Then the one-on-one sit down interview. We do it at a variety of places. But there is something to interviewing a guy in his comfort zone, at his college campus or his college town that adds value to the evaluation from my standpoint."

It doesn't stop there. The team does their homework, talking to family members, mom, dad, a brother or sister. It varies, but the mission is the same, get to know the player as best as possible.

"I think that has always been on our agenda," said Tomlin. "I think increasingly the pro days are becoming more of a spectacle and there are more families attending pro days now, so we are getting more opportunity to interact with them than in years past where it wasn't a spectator like event."

-- The pre-draft press conference isn't one that brings lots of news, and you won't get any indication of what direction the team is leaning with their No. 1 pick, or anywhere after. But one thing that is safe to assume, the Steelers won't be looking for a quarterback in the first round.

Colbert said after signing Ben Roethlisberger to his new contract in March, the only position ruled out early is quarterback.

"I think quarterback is safely eliminated from our wish list early," said Colbert.

-- Colbert gave a breakdown of what each position in the draft was like, some strong, some deep, and some neither.

Running back: "I think the running backs, that's a nice group. There is good quality and depth."

Quarterback: "Isn't as deep as it has been."

Wide receiver: "This year's group is deep, but not quite as dynamic as last years."

Tight end/Guard/Center: "There are just not a lot of tight ends to pick from coming out of the college ranks because of the spread offenses. That is not a terribly deep group. Same thing with the interior offensive line."

Offensive tackle: "It's a nice group. Probably as good a group I have seen in recent years."

Secondary: "There are more corners than there are safeties. I think the corner group is good."

Linebacker: "Outside linebacker types for us, which is a 4-3 defensive end for some 4-3 teams, this is probably as good a group at that position as I have seen in 10-15 years. It's an exceptional group with a lot of impact type guys. Inside linebackers not so much."

Defensive linemen: "The beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some guys are 4-3 guys, some guys are 3-4 guys. Some guys are both."

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