Wednesday Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert joined me on The David Todd Show on 970 ESPN as he prepared for the combine in Indianapolis. Here is a partial transcript of our conversation. You can hear the entire interview here.
Q: Does the fact that you finished 6-2 put a different flavor on being 8-8 this year vs. being 8-8 last year?
Colbert: 6-2, 8-4, that's nice. It's a good finish, it's a positive finish and we feel better about going into this offseason than we did coming out of the 2012 year, but still that can't hide the fact that we aren't where we want to be. We can't rely on the strong finish, we have to have the strong start and the strong finish to be what we want to be and that's the world champions.
Q: How do you put together your draft board? Some teams watch tape as a group (SF, Seattle, KC) others don't (Baltimore). How do you guys watch tape and evaluate talent?
Colbert: The scouts and myself we've been watching these prospects since August when their training camps opened, throughout the fall. We try to get varied opinions on a particular player. If we think the player is a potential first day guy, there'll be three of us that will evaluate him and we try to get a comprehensive view of that player over the course of the fall. Once we get through that process and once our coaches' season is over, we'll then take our preliminary ratings and give the coaches a certain amount of players to look at in their group at their positions. It's my job to pull all of that together. But, we do watch some film collectively, but it's only after everybody has had the opportunity to talk about the players from their own evlauations. It's my job to try to pull all of that information together and to make it a sensible evaluation, a comprehensive evaluation for the organization and that's where we try to end up. Again it started in August and it won't end until really a couple days before the draft because so much new information comes in daily and we have to incorporate that into it.
Q: How important is it to see a guy live...versus what you see on film? Is there something extra that you get by actually physically being there?
Colbert: Yes, without a doubt you definitely want to see a player live. It's impossible to see everybody, that's why we try to attack it on a broad base....The first thing you want to do is you want to see what that player looks like in a uniform. You want to see his development, how he carries his pads, just his basic movements in...football equipment. You want to watch his demeanor on the sidelines. You want to watch his demeanor, if you're not at at game, in practice to see how he responds to coaching, how hard he works. There are so many different things that you can't get off a video.
Football's a hard game to evaluate strictly live because at any given setting at a major college you may be 8-10 players that you may have to evaluate. And obviously with 22 people smashing into each other it's the easiest thing to decipher without video and that's why we rely heavily on the video for the more detailed breakdown of what a player can do. But the live look is certainly important because it's just a big part of the comprehensive view.
Q: Most teams have 150 guys on their draft board, New England might have as few as 75 guys on their draft board...How many guys will you typically have on your draft board?
Colbert: It will be over 300 when you include the free agent pool as well. But realistically we know in any given draft we're probably going to get our seven picks from a group of about 125. So again it's our job to make sure we align those players in the order that suits what we're looking for.
Q: Is ten (million) the number roughly (that you are currently over the cap)?
Colbert: Yea, I don't like to disclose exactly where it is. It's a workable amount. It's nothing that we haven't known is coming for awhile and we're prepared to deal with it either through terminations, restructurings or extensions. And that will be the first order of business and then we can move on to the signings and some of that might happen simultaneously, before the 11th (of March, the start of the new NFL year and free agency) and certainly some will happen after the 11th. We've had players that have hit the market and they see what's out there, and quite honestly David, they're better and they are more signable once they go out and get a feel for another organization or what someone else may be offering them. Any time you're able to reach an agreement it's obvious that both sides like the deal, but sometimes when a player has the opportunity to go out and shop himself and then decides to come back, it's a much better situation.
Q: Does the situation (this offseason on the defensive side of the ball) mean that you have to focus more in free agency to find a Larry Foote, a William Gay, a Ryan Clark to add to that, that you can't do it strictly in the draft?
Colbert: I think there's a possibility we could be more active in the free agency market this year than we have been in the past. Not only from an availability standpoint or from a depth requirement standpoint, but also from a cap situation that we haven't been able to do those types of things in the past because quite honestly we had more work to do just to get into compliance.
So it's a different group finishing this season than it has been in the past. It's probably a little throwback to early 2000s when we were trying to put it together at that point. We were a little more active in free agency with the James Farriors and Jeff Hartings and so on and so forth. It's kinda cyclical, but I think we could be more active in free agency. But again, the market will dictate that and how much we're able to get in compliance with the cap or get under the cap will dictate how much we'll be able to add from the outside. But generally the philosophy will stay the same, keep your own if at all possible and get the right draft picks.
You can hear the entire interview here including who is on Kevin's Steelers Mt. Rushmore.