“We didn’t see the value when we were making these picks,” said Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert. “We will continue to finish out the college free agents and maybe look at some veteran guys, too.”
The Steelers have only two reserves with any NFL experience, Kelvin Beachum and John Malecki, and both saw their first action last season.
Of course, free agents Max Starks and Doug Legursky could be in the back of Colbert’s mind, but Starks won’t be easy to re-sign as a backup, or for minimum wage. The Steelers had also talked to Houston Texans interior backup Antoine Caldwell prior to the draft.
The Steelers did touch up their return game slightly with college part-timers, third-rounder Markus Wheaton and fifth-rounder Terry Hawthorne, but coach Mike Tomlin said the possibility exists that he’ll keep Antonio Brown as a punt returner and possibly Emmanuel Sanders as a kickoff returner.
Backup quarterback was also addressed with the drafting of Landry Jones in the fourth round. Colbert said he’s “comfortable with the four guys we have right now,” meaning he has no plans to re-sign either Charlie Batch or Byron Leftwich.
Colbert said the team was looking to add 16 free agents after the draft and that the rookies will report next weekend for a minicamp.
Colbert and Tomlin were expectedly pleased with the Steelers’ haul and made a few additional points.
* Colbert on drafting Le’Veon Bell over other remaining running backs: “You look at his career average, it’s right at 5.0. He’s a big guy. He can go from being very patient to knowing when to hit a crease. He knows when to insert on those zone run schemes, and he can. He’s a big kid that can block and he’s got nice, soft hands. He actually volunteered to catch punts later in the season and they trusted him to do it.”
* Tomlin on starting a rookie linebacker (such as Jarvis Jones) in the Steelers’ system: “I think it’s a daunting task for rookies to start in any system and play and perform well. Obviously it’s difficult when you have established veteran players like we have with a lot of continuity. … We are not going to close the door on him. This is about people taking advantage of opportunities so he’ll be given that.”
* Colbert on Ben Roethlisberger taking on the role of mentoring Jones: “It’s really not his duty to do that. … I think Landry can learn from a guy like Ben just by watching him, being around him, being in the meeting rooms, on the practice fields, during games. I think he can serve that but it’s really not his duty to mentor the young players.”
* Colbert on the salary cap: “I think as we stand right now we are in pretty good shape. … We will certainly have to look at veterans that flush out and see if we can make them fit. Right now we are in a good spot. We will be able to sign these guys and potentially have a cushion going into the season without having to make too many more moves.”
The Steelers undrafted free agent list of 15 includes seven offensive linemen. Here's the official list:
The 15 undrafted rookies include defensive end Brian Arnfelt (Northwestern), linebacker Alan Baxter (Northern Illinois), guard Nik Embernate (San Diego State), wide receiver Reggie Dunn (Utah), offensive tackle Mike Farrell (Penn State), offensive tackle Mike Golic, Jr. (Notre Dame), defensive end Cordian Hagans (Louisiana-Lafayette), guard Chris Hubbard (UAB), defensive tackle Omar Hunter (Florida), long snapper Luke Ingram (Hawaii), center Joe Madsen (West Virginia), running back Curtis McNeal (USC), center Ivory Wade (Baylor), defensive tackle Anthony Rashad White (Michigan State) and wide receiver J.D. Woods (West Virginia).