Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert joined me on my TribLive Radio Show on Monday to discuss a number of topics including the speed of the players he drafted all the way to the state of the Penguins. Here’s a sample of what Colbert had to say. To listen to the full interview, check out the podcast. Be sure to tune into the Kaboly Show every Monday at 2 p.m. on TribLiveRadio.com
Q: Have you been able to finally get some rest after a grueling road leading up to the draft?
A: “I have no problem with that. You always have to take care of yourself and sleeping is usually not an issue for me. It was a long process, but it was an enjoyable one. Once you get into it and start moving through it, you keep doing it until you get the job done. That phase of the job is done and now it’s time to find out what we can and cannot do with these guys.”
Q: If you had to estimate, how many man hours do you and your staff put in over this entire draft process?
A: “I really don’t think you can. This process actually started last year at our Combine meetings in May and it continued through – the summers are usually slow but it picks up in training camp. It is pretty much a 6-7 days a week job from August through the end of April. You are ready to go and start it all over again. It would be hard to total the hours. Our scouts do a great job and they love doing it. They are passionate about it and, of course, when we plug the coaches into it, they are passionate. I don’t think anybody looks at it as a job more as a labor of love, I guess.”
Q: You got the fastest linebacker in the draft, the fastest player in the draft and one of the fastest wide receivers in the draft. Is it safe to assume that you wanted to improve your team speed?
A: “As long as they can play. Where we picked those guys, we felt that they can not only run fast, but they are good players. Ryan Shazier was a highly productive linebacker on a really good team. Dri Archer‘s speed is unique, but that is only part of his ability. He was also highly productive, not only as a runner, but as a kick returner and potentially a punt returner. Martavis (Bryant) not only runs fast but he had a ton of plays down the field with a big play offense that featured the best receiver in the draft in Sammy Watkins.”
Q: All of us experts had you picking a cornerback or a receiver in the first round. Well, we were wrong. I have always been curious if you – even if it is for curiosity sake only – take a look at some of the mock drafts, even if it is only by some of the top guys who do it, just to get a feel?
A: “You do notice them and you can’t help but to notice the mock drafts because they are on every prominent website that you go to for news. You basically see in any given draft people talking about usually 20-25 guys and there is a lot of air time for that group of players. If you see a name that’s outside of that group – you evaluate them and it’s not like you don’t know about them. But when you see somebody mentioned, those people are getting that information somewhere so maybe there is something to lead you to believe, even if you don’t like him, that somebody else does. That may or may not influence whether you have him available to you when you pick. With this draft as unique as it was with the talent level so deep to you didn’t see people reaching from outside from even our own evaluations. It’s unusual. Teams have their board the way they like it but this draft, I think, had a lot of the same ratings on them because there were so many to choose.”
Q: One of the assistants on Saturday during the media scrum said “there were a lot of guys you liked but all those guys got drafted.” I assume you won’t tell me who specifically, but I would have to assume one was cornerback. Did what maybe Cleveland did and Chicago did right before you force you to switch up?
A: “As I said even when we did our press conference last Monday, I said that there were 19 guys in this draft that we would be extremely happy to get and Ryan (Shazier) was in that group. There were guys who went ahead of Ryan who were really good players. They all aren’t at 19. Somebody has to be at 1 and somebody has to be at 19. When you pick a guy like Shazier, he was a part of that group. We were extremely excited that he was there but there were other players that we would’ve entertained and maybe we didn’t have an opportunity to pick them. That doesn’t diminish our excitement for Shazier.”
Q: In today’s NFL, is there a such thing as a Levon Kirkland-type inside linebacker of 290 pounds guy anymore or because of the rule changes of not allowing to hit as much, is it going toward the speedy 230-pound inside guys like Shazier?
A: “The game has changed. The high school game crept into the colleges which crept into the NFL because of the players that are groomed at each level. You have to adjust to it. Football over the last five years in the NFL has become the lateral type game. You almost saw it back in the early 2000s when New England started spreading people out and you saw some different things and you thought that this could be the wave of the future. It certainly has stuck. You have to have people that can make plays laterally not to say that people aren’t going to try to run down your throat if they get mismatches. That lateral speed is really important and that’s why Shazier was really exciting for us to add because he can make those plays laterally. He can get down the field in coverage to some spots where some others couldn’t because of his speed. He can certainly add an inside pass rush with his burst and his ability to find some cracks inside. That’s why we viewed him as a first-round player.”
Q: I know you are a big Penguins fan so I am going to put you on the spot. What’s going to happen in Game 7?
A: “I think we are going win. To win a game in any professional sport, it’s a difficult task and I am just not talking about the playoffs. You can never take a win for granted because the other team is professionals as well. To win a series, you have to win more games than they do. It’s not easy. I am sure a lot of people are disappointed that there is a Game 7, but it’s not easy to win a game let alone a series when you play another team of professionals. It’s a tall order but I am sure they are going to be up to it. The Consol better be rocking for these guys because they deserve our support and they are going to get it and we are going to get that win.”