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The search for the whole truth

INDIANAPOLIS – An MRI cannot lie. Neither can a stopwatch. Those are parts of the NFL Scouting Combine where the results can be quantified and categorized. Not so much with the information teams glean during the interview sessions.

The Steelers have dispatched different groups of interviewers to gather as much face time as possible with the prospects assembled here this week. They will go at it for several hours every night through the weekend, and often these initial sessions will lead to more conversation down the road.

The only thing is: what to believe?

"You try to quantify the intangibles. It's hard," said General Manager Kevin Colbert. "We can figure out how fast a guy is and how big a guy is. We can verify that. That's easy. But to verify a guy's character, it's next to impossible because there are so many intangible issues that go into a person. We have to sort through and figure out, OK, what's real information? What is fabricated? What degree of risk, once we verify what is real and not real, what degree of risk do we want to put on that player or that person? That's something you just try to put together as you do this whole evaluation process."

Character is going to be the primary issue with one of the top prospects at cornerback this week, because it's a certainty the teams here are more interested in what they can learn about Marcus Peters as a person than in whatever the stopwatch is going to tell them.

You see, Peters is a 6-foot, 198-pound cornerback with eight interceptions over his first two seasons, but Peters is also the guy who got kicked off his University of Washington team last November for getting into altercations with coaches on the sideline during a game.

Peters has come out publicly and said he deserved to be kicked off the team. He also has said he will sit in the interviews here throughout the week and answer the questions truthfully.

"You're going to look at a kid's body of work as a player and his body of work as a person and try to figure out what happened," said Colbert about extracting the real truth during interviews where answers might have been coached. "In any kind of character evaluation you have to look for what's the truth and whether or not you want to deal with the truth. That's really the decision that has to come."

A look back at current members of the Steelers defense when they were at the NFL Scouting Combine.

With the way in which the league's new player conduct policy can impose penalties before any adjudication of charges, teams have to weigh the benefit of taking a chance on a player with already-known character issues. Colbert said these new policies won't impact the Steelers' method of evaluating character.

"We have always tried to place an emphasis on the character issues," said Colbert, "and really what happens throughout the league in any given year really doesn't influence us because we think we are doing the right things, and we think we have been doing the right things for a long time. So we are going to try to continue to do those types of evaluations, but no more strictly than we've tried to be in the past."

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