Kevin Colbert: We are finalizing all of the preparations for the draft. We are concluding the meetings. We will probably be done with the actual meetings on Wednesday. Thursday and Friday we will have a couple mock drafts with the coaching staff and with the owners. We are also going to be making calls to all the different teams, as we do each year, trying to see anybody’s interest in trading up or trading down and if there are any other players available. Just talking about the draft. For 2004, we think it is unusually deep, especially in certain positions. I think the running backs, the quarterbacks, the wide receivers is probably the best group of receivers I have seen in 20 years. Tight ends are a little top heavy. The offensive line is not a deep position, it is a little concerning actually. With the defensive backs, the safeties are a little thin, but we think it is unusually good for corners this year as well. Linebackers are probably better inside than outside. Defensive linemen, there probably aren’t a lot of great ones, but there will be a lot of contributors coming out of that. Really, with pick number 11, there has been tons of speculation, tons of rumors, and tons of predictions. I think we are going to have a lot of choices at 11. We are real confident. We think there are at least 11 good players. We feel real confident about that. I think you can probably really stretch it down to 15. If we get into a trade down scenario, I think we could probably go all the way down into the middle of the bottom half and still come away with a pretty good player. We are very open to anything. I think we are most likely to sit where we are and pick. But trading down will definitely be a possibility. I think we are probably less likely to trade up.
Q: Do you go by the draft pick value chart?
Kevin Colbert: No, I have never used that. I don’t like the chart. Other teams use it but you never want to lock yourself into doing a deal or not doing a deal because of the value that you place on the pick. If you do that, for one thing, the chart does not know who the players are that you are trading up for or trading away from and you don’t know the value you are actually giving up. I think you have to look at each situation individually. We will do some more history as to what picks have been traded to get from one player to a round to another round. But we will not use a specific chart and say that we are not going to do that because the value is not there. If we want a player, we are going to go up and get him. If we don’t want a player, then we will try aggressively to go down. But I have never used the chart.
Q: If you drop from 11 to 20 or so, what could you expect in return? Like what you gave up last year?
Kevin Colbert: When you look at last year, we went from 26 to 16 and we gave up a third and a sixth. Is that in the range? Yes, we are actually dropping from a little higher so you would anticipate, depending on how far you are going down, you would anticipate getting more than that.
Q: If you drop 10 spots, could you get a second round pick?
Kevin Colbert: I would not put a value on it right now because until you get into that situation, and know what your odds are of getting a player, you don’t want to lock yourself in. But, I think you have to, not using the chart, but more history as to what has happened along those lines.
Q: Why is there more of a chance that you would trade down, rather than up?
Kevin Colbert: Being where we are at 11, we are real sure that there are 11 good players. So we don’t have to go up to get a good player. Somebody is going to be there for us. But if somebody is real interested in coming up to that spot, then we have to be open and say wait a minute, we can get whatever picks we are going to get, and still get somebody, but obviously not the same quality that you get at 11, but at least down to 20 or whatever. You have to be open minded because there is enough depth in that first round that you won’t hurt yourself significantly.
Q: How deep is that second level of players?
Kevin Colbert: I think if you get past three quarters of the way through the first round, you will probably be getting into a lesser level of a player. You don’t want to trade yourself out too far because these top players are still the guys we have to get. They are still going to be the guys that are going to be the difference makers, hopefully.
Q: There has been a lot of talk of you drafting a quarterback. Can you talk about the pros and cons of getting one in the first round?
Bill Cowher: Certainly, if you are picking a guy in the first round, you feel pretty good about him. Let me just say this about the position. We still feel good about where we are with Tommy Maddox. Certainly with what took place a year ago coming off the previous year where he kind of came in for Kordell (Stewart) and had the season that he had and really finished the season strong with a really strong game in Tennessee and then coming back last year. While there were some inconsistencies, certainly with Tommy’s play there were some inconsistencies, with our whole offensive play. He did not have the same offensive line as the previous year. I think consequently, he never really got in synch. That certainly should not all be put on Tommy’s shoulders. I think Tommy is a quality quarterback. I think the thing we are looking at, as Kevin eluded to, is that sitting at 11, we need to put ourselves in a position that we take the best football player. We don’t like to think that we are going to be up this high that often. So, if you are up this high, then the benefit is to have an opportunity to pick and get a top player. From 26 to 16, you are still getting the sixteenth player. We are sitting at 11, so I think we are not going to bypass a good football player, regardless of the position. Certainly, the speculation of quarterback is always that because it is always a very high profile position. But we certainly feel good about Tommy Maddox.
Q: Would there be less speculation about a quarterback if you were back at number 21?
Bill Cowher: I don’t think there is any question about that. I think that is probably why a lot of it has been created, because of that.
Q: Which positions are easiest to evaluate? Which are the toughest in terms of projections in the NFL?
Kevin Colbert: That is hard. I don’t think there is any one that is easier than the others. I think probably the offensive linemen are more predictable. You see them in similar situations although with the spread offenses you see much more pass blocking than there is run blocking. Sometimes the secondary people are a little difficult to judge because they may not be covering the same types of receivers that they will cover in the NFL. Sometimes there scheme is not as sophisticated. I think the hardest thing that has cropped up in recent years is with the juniors, and now we’re into sophomores and even the freshmen being involved in the draft. We are getting a lot of inexperienced guys. That is a little scary. We talked about some guys the other day and some of these guys have only started for a year and maybe they are true juniors, or true redshirt sophomores. They just have not played a lot. I think that has been a trend that we are seeing more, less experience is coming up. That is a little scary because I think these kids are going to have more difficulty adjusting and they are less predictable. The more we see a guy play in general, the better chance we are going to have to predict whether he can play or not. Again, with these young kids coming out, that has become more difficult.
Q: Will the emphasis on illegal contact on wide receivers in 2004 change how cornerbacks play?
Bill Cowher: They haven’t always allowed guys to mug guys down the field. But yes, there is going to be. It is a point of emphasis this year. To what extent that takes the game, we are going to have to be able to adjust to that. I think we are all in a little bit of an unknown as to what they are going to allow and not allow as it relates to playing off coverage and bump and run coverage. What kind of effect will that have, I guess the question is on the game, or on the cornerback position?
Q: The cornerback position?
Bill Cowher: We just had a chance to talk to Ahmad Carroll a little bit about, it because he had a lot of pass interference calls on him l last year, about getting his head back and some of the things that they were calling pretty close there. So you look at it and it has been interesting to see. Some of the bump and run guys, is it going to create more fouls with the way Miami plays defense? Is it going to be looking for guys that are maybe a little better off coverage corners? I think it is hard to say. I don’t think it is going to have a dramatic impact. I would like to think that it won’t. I don’t think the game needs to be changed that much. We are going to have to adjust a little bit. I think there will be a lot more calls in the preseason and then we will see how they carry that over. I don’t think it is going to affect how we look at drafting certain players. We are not going to alter how we play call wise, we may have to alter how we play technique wise.
Q: Talk about DeAngelo Hall and Dunta Robinson and are they the top cornerbacks?
Kevin Colbert: I really don’t want to get into specific guys. We can’t really talk a lot about specifics and who is good at what, and who is weaker. I would rather not talk about individuals. Obviously, those two are top guys. We are certainly aware of them. We had Dunta in here for an extra visit. I think for corners, it is unusually deep. It is unusually deep for receivers and for corners. But individually, I would rather not talk about certain guys.
Q: Is it reasonable to expect that you will get a quality corner with your second round pick?
Kevin Colbert: I think the depth is good enough that you could get some starters out of the second round. Now, they might not be starters in year one or two, but these are some of the kids that maybe have not played and still have a lot of upside to them. Really you can stretch it on down to the third round. There is quality depth there. They may not be front liners, but all the starters in the league don’t have to be first rounders. This year, it is unusual for that position. With that position, you are usually searching for guys, for whatever reason. It has been helped by some of the underclassmen that have come out. A kid like Chris Gamble, just to point out, he is a junior but technically as a corner, he has only played a year and a half because he spent so much time on offense last year. He is by far not a finished product. Those are some of the things we are seeing.
Q: The players that came in here the last few weeks, what did you learn by brining them in here?
Kevin Colbert: Let’s just back track for a minute. At the combine we can visit with all 350 kids. We have a special room set up and each team has a special room and you are only allowed to spend 15 minutes each with a total of 60 players. What we have to do prior to going to the combine, we come up with a list and I review it with Coach (Bill) Cowher and we look at okay these are the guys we have to talk to. You only have those 15 minutes. After the draft you are only allowed to bring 20 kids in between the combine and last Friday. The only reason they can come in technically is for a physical. Some of the kids are brought in for medical examinations; in fact, all of them were from a technical standpoint. But, while you have them you can certainly spend time with them and get to know them a little bit better, put them on the board with all of your coaches and just dissect a little bit more what you have done. In a lot of the cases some of the kids I think of the 20, I think we had five kids who weren’t at the combine, and those are kids we had a liking for, but we did not have a physical for. Without a physical we would not draft them. The other kids were brought in because we wanted to get a second look. The receivers that group we did not talk to any receivers at the combine because with only 60 spots we had to make sure that we covered that group. When we looked at it we said this group of receivers is pretty good let’s make sure we talk to these guys. We brought in I think three or four receivers. Just to cover our bases with the receivers that we did not talk to at the combine the other kids were let’s get another talk and let’s get another visit with them. It is like anything, you have a first impression when you meet a guy. Maybe you liked him or maybe you didn’t like him but that second impression is going to verify something that you may or may not have thought about the first time.
Q: Did you double up on any players from the combine?
Kevin Colbert: We brought in 20. Five of them were first timers, except for the receivers; I believed we talked to everyone else. I would say 11 or 12 of them we had talked to before.
Q: You said there are at least 11 good players. If the court rules against Maurice Clarett does that change things?
Kevin Colbert: That comes tomorrow. We will see where that situation stands. It will change the situation for those two and there are a handful of kids that piggybacked off of that, a couple of junior college and high school kids. It can change things, yes.
Q: How do you feel your team since your offseason moves?
Bill Cowher: The team is doing well. There are 50 guys in here now (for voluntary workouts). We should have everybody; I think there are only 2 players at this time that will not be ready for the May mini-camp. We are going to have everybody in here the second weekend in May. We are going to do things differently than we have in the past. At this time, Jay Riemersma and Jeff Reed are the only two players that will not be participating in that May mini-camp. Jay should be ready to go by the coaching sessions in the middle of May. Everything is good. We are getting ready for this weekend and we will see where we are when this weekend is over and still see what options we have left.
Q: Will Jason Gildon be invited to that mini-camp?
Bill Cowher: I don’t know. We will see. At this point we are getting ready for the draft and we will have a better sense of where we are after the draft.
Q: With Jeff Reed’s hip surgery and him being unable to kick will you possibly look to draft a kicker?
Bill Cowher: Jeff is right on target. He will be able to kick in the latter part of May. I think at this point I don’t foresee it. We have not talked about the kickers yet and I don’t know what the situation is there. I am not going to say we wouldn’t, but we are not dissatisfied with Jeff. I think he is right on target.
Q: Did Jay Riemersma have some type of procedure?
Bill Cowher: He is just recovering from the shoulder.
Q: You have nine draft picks, would you like to have more or are there a set number of rookies that you would like to add to your roster?
Kevin Colbert: With the nine picks, that is the most that we have ever had. The thing that is interesting with those nine picks in fact we were just talking about this before we came in, the league has increased the practice rosters to eight which gives us three additional players so as we get into the later rounds even though we may not look at some of these guys who might be able to come in and be backups and contribute right away. We could be drafting some kids that may be a year or two down the road who might be able to make your team as a backup because we would have to cut them and put them on the practice squad. We are real happy that we have the extra three spots because every year you kind of struggle with having some kids that you would like to keep around and like to work with, but you have some limitations. Now the number is up to eight and I think that will help us especially in the later rounds.
Q: Did you re-examine any of your second day procedures at all?
Kevin Colbert: No. We approach the first day, the second day, the free agents; we follow the same board that we have spent months putting together. That won’t change.
Q: You have not drafted a lot of Pitt guys, but this year I hear they have a lot of guys that might be drafted. Is there any advantage to being right next door to those guys?
Kevin Colbert: When you go out on the road and talk to different scouts and they say you really know those Pitt kids. You do but you don’t. It is almost that you take them for granted being that they are right next-door. You don’t interact with them daily but you see them daily. You see a kid like Larry Fitzgerald in the cafeteria and how he acts around people and you are impressed. I don’t think we have any special advantage. We don’t spend any more time watching them practice then we do anybody else. It is odd because I think I have been in there building maybe two times in the four years I have been here because we can get there tape and I can see them practice from my window, but I don’t watch it from there. It is not like we are with them all the time even as close as we are. Pitt does have a good class of seniors plus with Larry Fitzgerald thrown into the mix. It is really a good group from those guys this year. I think there will be some kids that get drafted pretty high and there are going to be a lot of kids from Pitt playing in the league from this year’s class.
Q: If you meet with them they do not count against your twenty?
Kevin Colbert: Correct. When we went to the combine we did not talk to any Pitt kids. We told Coach Harris and Chris LaSalle, listen, we are not going to talk to your kids out at the combine but understand we are not going to use up one of our 60 spots because we can talk to them for free, so to speak.
Q: How are the discussions leading up to the days when you were putting together your boards?
Bill Cowher: They are ongoing.
Q: Is the board together?
Kevin Colbert: Just about. Like I said we will be in there until Wednesday. Like I said we have had good discussions.
Bill Cowher: It is ongoing.
Kevin Colbert: Good discussions.
Bill Cowher: We are both still standing.
Q: Will you share with us who is at the top of the board?
Bill Cowher: Sure, do you guys want to come down (to the draft room)?
Kevin Colbert: When you go into these meetings, when we are doing the first three rounds, we probably average one to two guys an hour. We spend that much time. Like I said by the time we end up drafting a guy there is going to be three scout opinions including myself, I am talking about the top guys, a position coach, a coordinator, an All-Star report, a psychological report, a medical report, a background check and then we are going to put him up and discuss him and look at him versus their own position plus across the board. It is a long process with the first group. We average ten guys a day with that first group of guys, but those are the guys we have to get right. The second group is more like 15 to 18 a day and then the free agents we do those guys after hours and make sure that they are all lined up. There has been a lot of time put in and a lot of good discussions.
Q: Do people lobby you? Is there lobbying going on?
Kevin Colbert: Yes. The coaches are going to lobby the coach and the scouts are going to try and lobby me. I don’t even have to look at their grades and I can tell how they are talking about him. Or if we measure a guy twice and he ends up being an eighth of an inch shorter the guy that gave him the least grade is going to mention that. You have to sift through it and we have to sit down as a group and put this thing together. Once it is put together there is no naysayers. Like I said before there will not be a pick unless there is a consensus.
Q: How much does a computer weed out or gather numbers and then spit things out?
Kevin Colbert: The computer just stores the information for us. We are going to tell the computer how we want the information to come out.
Q: How many people sit in on this?
Kevin Colbert: During a typical session it will be all the scouts, myself, the Head Coach, the coordinator for whatever side of the ball we are talking about and the position for that specific position. All the medical information is already done by our doctors and if we have to call Head Trainer John Norwig up for an opinion we will do that. We will also visit with our doctors; we are actually doing that this evening, to go through any questions that may have come up during the last two and a half weeks. We also have our psychologist the guy that does some of our background work, they are always available for us but we have all their information.
Q: Once the board is set is there still debate on Saturday afternoon. Will there still be an ongoing discussion when it comes time to pick?
Kevin Colbert: There will be discussions based on how it unfolds. We are going to go through mock drafts and put ourselves in situations where okay what if this happens what are we going to do here. What if they call to trade, are we going to be willing to do that? As I have always said we would like to have five guys we are looking at each pick. As it goes through, we took one position in one round we are not going to follow that thing to a T. As long as we are with in range.
Bill Cowher: I always say it is like a game. You prepare and you go in there with a game plan. When a game unfolds you have to be able to adjust. You have to be able to go with however the game is being played and the draft is the same way. Every pick there is a trickle down effect with every team based on who is left at that position, who is left up on the board. There are runs that take place and you see it all the time why you see two or three go at one position because oh geez here go the receivers, here go the corners. Depth has a lot to do with it. There are so many variables. It is like a game and you prepare for it but on those two days you are adjusting based on what is taking place in front of you and what you have done to that point. When it gets all said and done you see where you come out. You prepare going in, stay flexible, talk through it and make a decision and move on.
Q: Is the majority of the groundwork for trades made before the draft actually begins? Do you talk to somebody about that possibility and if that possibility eventuates that your basic groundwork has already been set and all you have to do at that point is dot the I and cross the T?
Kevin Colbert: We will touch base with every team this week and to see who may be interested in moving up or moving down. Every team always says we are open to everything and they may throw out a player that they might have available. That usually happens pretty quickly because teams don’t want to trade up or down until their guy is on the board. You may have somebody call and say listen if our guy is not there, we are interested in going down or if he is there, we may be calling you to come up. It is kind of vague until you get on the clock.
Q: You don’t talk to them about if you want to do this here is what we want, it all takes place within that 15 minutes on Saturday?
Kevin Colbert: Correct.
Bill Cowher: A lot of it is predicated on if a player we want is there. They will give you some time to think about it when your pick comes up would you consider this. They may call you three picks before your pick but based on a guy you may have in mind. That is the scenario that has taken place before.
Kevin Colbert: Last year specifically, we knew that Kansas City was interested in getting out of 16 so they were a candidate if we wanted to go up which we ended up doing. We never talked about what it would cost to go up.
Q: Who will be your guys in New York City?
Kevin Colbert: Tim Carey, Scott Phelps and possibly John Rooney as well.
Q: In years past going back to the Art Rooney days they said there was more discussion than debate. With all these great players out there is there more debate than discussion going on back there?
Kevin Colbert: It is good discussion. We will sit there and I will have a scout read a report maybe two. I will have a coach read a report, the coordinators looked at the top guys and we will sit down and talk about him. What round do you think this guy should go in, how does he compare to this guy. It is a good discussion. We try to be as thorough and as realistic as we can be. It is good discussion; there is not a lot of debating. We discuss it and let’s make sure we are getting this guy correct. Our whole thing is let’s get him right. Most of the time after everybody has looked at them they end up where they have always been, maybe move them around a little here or there. Every once in a while we will get a kid that really played well in the Senior Bowl and that really helps them. A kid that maybe was hurt and you got a later look at them and you ended up liking them better. You may end up adjusting some things that way. Those are good discussions and it takes a long time. Formally, we have been discussing these things for the last two and a half weeks but since the season has been over Coach and I have had discussions generally since the end of the season.
Q: Is there any one player at this point if available you would want to take?
Kevin Colbert: No. We have not narrowed it down to one guy because there are 11good ones that can come in and help us.
Q: Given the changes in scouting and information gathering and all that has changed in the last 30 years would any team ever be able to remotely be able to do what the Steelers did in the 1974 draft by drafting that many Hall-of-Famers in one draft?
Kevin Colbert: I have said this before. What they did in 1974 was phenomenal and that is a tribute to Art Jr. and his staff and Coach Noll. That class was the best and that was the standard. Now to say that can never be equaled I think is selling yourself short. That is not being disrespectful to that class it is just that we never want to say we can’t do anything. You have to respect what they did. The problem I see today is there is so much time between the end of the season and the draft and there are so many common workouts now. A lot of times we are at the same workouts. You may have 32 teams represented and you are getting the same information. It comes off too clean in the early rounds. Teams actually share workouts. There are 24 teams that share workout information and we are not one of them. We try to keep as much information to ourselves as possible. With the Internet and all the publicity that this event gets, it is hard to do, but it is not possible.
Q: Is there a lot of passion in those discussions?
Bill Cowher: They are good discussions. I don’t where you are going with it. I don’t want to give you any ammo. They are good. They are very healthy.
Q: Has the emphasis changed at all on getting a guy that is going to contribute immediately over the years as opposed to free agency?
Bill Cowher: I just think the importance of draft picks obviously, because of this system, the number that you are going to get, the cap number that you are going to be able to get this player for, makes every one of those picks very important picks. That is why you know you have these guys for four or five years, maybe the first guy for five years and the other guys you know you have for a minimum of four years for the most part. It just makes them important picks. Like I said, you like to get guys that come in and because of the system, some guys will have an opportunity to contribute maybe more quickly than others depending on your football team. At the same time, you have to be careful you are not just picking to fill needs on your team, that you are still getting good football players because they still have to play over the long haul. If they are not good football players, at some point that is going to get exposed. That is why you put it up there and you are careful that you are not grading a guy high just because you need that player for your team. So we are trying to put the right grade on him, pick him in the right round, and hopefully he will help make us a better team.
Q: How did you guys do last year?
Bill Cowher: I think the best way of doing it is that you have to give it three or four years to see how these guys have competed in those four years, and what kind of contributions have they made? Just because a player leaves here after four years does not mean he was not a good draft pick. That may mean you not have been able to sign him because of the cap and some of the reasons there. But you look at the players and see how long they played in this league, that is the best way to evaluate. You have to give some of these guys at least that time frame to make their mark.