FA benefits draft prep: The Steelers were busy during free agency this year, adding six unrestricted free agents while also keeping many of their own.
During their annual pre-draft press conference at Heinz Field on Monday, both Coach Mike Tomlin and General Manager Kevin Colbert addressed the importance of the free agent signings as they prepare for the draft. While signing a player at a given position won't prevent them from drafting at that position, it did fill some gaps before going into the draft.
"Our goal always is to address all needs so we can kind of let the field come to us in the draft. We feel comfortable that we have quality, capable guys at each and every position," said Tomlin. "And that's what we desire, and that way we can go into the draft and not feel undue pressure in terms of reaching positionally, etc.
"So, we had a very productive free agency period. We are excited about the guys that we were able to acquire. Obviously just beginning to get to know them as professionals and football players, but in terms of how we acquire talent, free agency and then the draft, we think that free agency has really set us up nicely to have a good draft."
Colbert said the team will approach the draft the same way as they always have even with the success in free agency, always looking for the best available when they are on the clock.
"We always have approached it the same way," said Colbert. "When free agency began, obviously that creates some situations where you try to fill in certain holes through that period, as Coach mentioned. We thought we did some of that. And anytime we have draft preparations, and two players are close, if you have strength at one position and not another, and the players are close, you obviously will take that player where your strength isn't as good.
"You'll make a huge mistake if you reach down low in your developments and on your boards for players that are not quite as good, because what looks like a position need at a certain time can change instantly. And we have to recognize that and just try to take the best players available if it's not close."
Starting-caliber all around: Prior to the NFL Owners Meetings, Colbert spoke about the talent the Steelers had on the roster at that point, mentioning that he felt they had a starting-caliber player at every position with the exception of strong safety.
After signing strong safety Terrell Edmunds to a one-year contract on Monday, keeping the former No. 1 pick in black and gold, Colbert felt more comfortable with the spot, but said there is still competition all around.
"Fortunately, he's coming back to us, and he gives us that 22nd starter, so to speak," said Colbert. "And when we say that I want to emphasize we are not saying we're good enough, we're saying we have NFL veteran starters at each position. And the Draft process will provide great competition for that, but it isn't like any of these young men that we drafted will come in and be ordained a starter."
Edmunds, the Steelers No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, was an unrestricted free agent who tested the waters before staying with the team.
"We were open and honest with Terrell throughout the whole process as he was with us," said Colbert. "We were able to stay connected and see where it all went. We didn't know where the market would be; he didn't. We always encourage our free agents, look, it's going to better serve you to go out and find out what else is there. And that's part of the decision-making. Understand that we are doing the same thing on our side."
Let's make a deal: Trades are always a hot topic on draft day, and Colbert stated that the team is always open to trading up or down, something they have done in the past, including trading up to acquire Hall of Famer Troy Polamalu and Super Bowl XLIII hero Santonio Holmes.
"When we go into it, we will have touched base with every team above us, below us," said Colbert. "'Hey, they are interested in moving up, they are interested in coming out.' We'll guesstimate what it will cost to move from 20 to 7 and then from 20 back down to 32, and you're always making those assessments.
"But we can always say what we gave up for Troy, a 3 (third rounder) and a 6 (sixth rounder), to move up more spots than we gave up to move up for Santonio, we gave up a 3 (third rounder) and a 4 (fourth rounder), and I forget how many spots we moved, maybe four, but in each of those endeavors, those moves helped us win a Super Bowl.
"That's where we never will lock ourselves into. They have got draft charts with the numbers, and this is a good deal and not a good deal. I think you can determine all that only after the fact.
"We will be knowledgeable of what it will cost, and we will decide as it unfolds. I never want to trade for a specific spot without knowing a specific player, or if you go back to Casey Hampton, when we traded back, we traded back three spots, we had three people, Casey included, who was the top of those three that we would have felt good about.
"We are always making those decisions, but it's never black and white."