Visit NFL from the sidelines on the new Observer-Reporter site:

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Day 1 of the combine

Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert made his rounds today and really didn't have much more to add to what he said last week when he met with the media in Pittsburgh.

But Colbert did say the Steelers felt cornerback Cortez Allen's struggles last season were, at least in part, due to the NFL's focus on defensive holding and pass interference in the secondary.

I felt that was the case as well, and Colbert confirmed it.

Allen was hit with a number of penalties throughout the preseason and early into the regular season that caused him to begin to doubt himself.

Then, when there was a possibility of his return late in the year, he suffered a broken thumb that completely derailed his season.

The Steelers feel Allen can bounce back and will give him every opportunity to do so.

@ That said, Pittsburgh will still likely be in the market for a cornerback early in this draft. Ike Taylor and Brice McCain are impending free agents and Antwon Blake will be a restricted free agent, though the Steelers are expected to tender him an offer.

The Steelers haven't taken a cornerback in the first round since Chad Scott in 1997 and have taken two in the second round - Ricardo Colclough in 2004 and Bryant McFadden in 2005 - since Colbert joined the team in 2000.

They might not take a corner in the first round this year but almost certainly will take at least one and possibly two in the first four rounds.

"It looks like it's going to be good," Colbert said of this year's cornerback group. "There's NFL-caliber players that are going to be available, probably at least through five rounds."

@ From the sound of things, it appears the Steelers will allow linebacker Jason Worilds to test the free agent market.

It's a gamble, but Colbert said the Steelers have spoken with Worilds and aren't likely to tag him, though they haven't ruled that out just yet.

@ One thing Colbert said the Steelers wouldn't do is go into the draft targeting any one position.

"We won't go into a draft thinking we need a specific position, because when you do that, you tend to overevaluate a specific position, and that's where mistakes are made," Colbert said. "We have to evaluate the whole field and draft accordingly. If there's a great offensive player who can help us average 27 points instead of 24 points - whatever our average was last year - maybe we won't need to be as good on defense. We're always going to be open to taking good players."

@ Tennessee Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt joined Gerry Dulac and me on ESPN 970-AM and said that the decision to add Dick LeBeau to his staff was an easy one.

He did say that LeBeau was concerned with how defensive coordinator Ray Horton would handle not being in charge of calling the defenses for the Titans, but that Horton had no problem with it given his longtime relationship with LeBeau.

Whisenhunt also said that he had seen the stories and quotes from several of the Steelers veterans who are heading into free agency and/or might become free agents if released - Ike Taylor, James Harrison, Brett Keisel and Troy Polamalu - saying they would like to follow LeBeau to Tennessee and that he would be open to adding those players.

@ Colbert was asked if the Steelers regretted releasing LeGarrette Blount.

He simply said no.

@ I just sat in on the interview with top tight end prospect Maxx Williams of Minnesota. I was kind of surprised at how small he is.

At the table not far away was Penn State tight end Jesse James and he was much bigger than Williams, though Williams is more of a complete tight end.

Williams is listed at 6-4, 250, while James is listed at 6-7, 254. But Williams looked like the more skinny guy.

But, Williams noted he's still just 20 years old and he looks forward to improving his strength over the next couple of years.

James said he met with the Steelers today.

The Steelers also met with Florida State tight end Nick O'Leary, the grandson of Jack Nicklaus, Tuesdsay night.

Yes, the team is definitely in the market for a young tight end.


PAT said...

draft THE OUTLAW in the first round, wait until 5th round to address CB

Anonymous said...

Didn't Woody Johnson and the Jets get in trouble for tampering after saying much less about Revis?

Anonymous said...

I hope Cortez bounced back the way he played went way beyond getting some bad calls. Opposing offense just attacked the guy relentlessly with results. The Colts abused him until he was benched.

I'd be shocked if he was ever more than a #3 or #4 CB going forward.

I think Jesse James from Penn State would be a good late pick for us.

Dale Lolley said...

Whisenhunt didn't name anyone. Just said he had read that some players would be interested in joining LeBeau.

Anonymous said...

Steelers have drafted small players recently.. Jones and Shazier

Anonymous said...

I was looking at the measurements from yesterday and they had Williams listed at 6' 5" which is an inch taller than he has been listed at previously. Sounds funny but that extra inch seems to put him in little different light for me. I like the kid. He is a Steeler type TE, but I think we are very likely to make defense the priority in the top part of this draft.

Dale Lolley said...

Jones and Shazier aren't small. Both are 240.

Anonymous said...

most people in the know say that the CB group is deep in the first 2-3 rounds and is very thin afterwards. Steelers better snatch one up in the first 2 rounds

Anonymous said...

Regardless of the weight number, both Jones and Shazier look small on the football field. Especially Jones.

marc said...

it's not as if allen was the only DB that had to deal with a renewed emphasis on holding, etc. in short, he collapsed under the pressure and now the steelers are staring at a sizeable investment with diminishing prospects. of course they are going to do everything they can to elevate him back up - they have too much invested in him not to.

the probability of him ever becoming the top CB they thought is very low based on what has transpired. could he be a serviceable #3, sure. but the steelers need to attack the CB position hard if they want to see continued improvement from the defense.

Zeke R said...

A solid pass rusher would help the corners a whole lot...

mv7267 said...

It would be sad to see any of those players still thinking they have any NFL left. Didn't Whiz try that strategy in AZ? He needs to face facts that his teams go as far as his talent at QB go, not old defensive players and coaching.

I like O'Leary. He made a ton of plays at FSU and made Winston look good. Not Gronk, but he did split out and line up in the backfield at times.