A pre-camp chat with Kevin Colbert
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Another in a series of stories previewing Steelers Training Camp, presented by Xfinity.
Tomlin signs contract extension
Steelers Director of Football Operations Kevin Colbert gives a run-down of training camp from the perspective of the player personnel department, while also answering questions about the Steelers’ depth at quarterback and whether the team is too old.
Q. When it comes to training camp, how are the scouts used to help in the evaluations being made that go into determining the final 53-man roster?
A. Each of the scouts is assigned a position. He will watch that position at practice, and then after each practice we get together and watch the film as a group. Each guy is watching his position, and then we will have a meeting in the afternoon on the day of the night practice in Latrobe, which this summer is on Friday, Aug. 6. We put together our thoughts for the discussion with the coaches, which is usually the following Tuesday. Each scout is assigned one position to watch.
Q. As it gets closer to the two cut-down dates – Aug. 31 when rosters have to be reduced to 75 and Sept. 4 when it’s down to 53 – what is the personnel department’s involvement?
A. At that point, all of the scouts already are gone, out on the road scouting preseason games. Each scout is assigned two teams, and so at that point they’re not involved in the evaluation of our team, except for Brandon Hunt, Phil Kreidler and me. Once we leave camp and the preseason really gets underway, we will also break down our video. Again, we’re just there to provide an extra set of eyes for the coaches. We’re not concerned with Xs and Os, we’re more concerned with the players and how we see them helping the team. When we get into the meetings with the coaches, we have those discussions and give our opinion as to how we think our team should come together.
Q. What do you think needs to happen at training camp for this team to prepare itself for the 2010 season?
A. Everybody has to put their focus on the task at hand and not be held back by anything that happened in the offseason. We all know we have a huge task ahead of us. We all know we’re going to open the season without our starting quarterback, and we can’t be concerned with that. We just have to focus on the task at hand, which is to get better every day at training camp, use the practices and the preseason games to prepare us for Atlanta.
Q. As far as this team’s roster, are you constantly looking at players who might be available, or do you go into the first portion of training camp with the idea to give the rookies a chance to show what they’re capable of contributing?
A. Once you set your roster at 80 players for training camp, you’re constantly monitoring their progress during camp. Part of our job, in addition to monitoring our own team, is to be aware of what’s going on in the 31 other training camps. There won’t be a cut until the Tuesday after our third preseason game, and so the chance of picking up a player from another team is pretty minute until the final cut on Sept. 4. So you just have to monitor what you have. Chances are you’re not going to pick anybody up who can improve your 80-man roster, or you would’ve done that previously. You hope you’re fortunate enough not to sustain any injuries during training camp because the pool of players is smaller when everybody has an 80-man roster.
Q. Why was Adrian Jones on the street without a contract so close to the opening of training camps?
A. He was headed to the UFL. He had not signed a contract yet, but he did have a contract offer. Adrian went to training camp last year with the Houston Texans, was cut and not picked back up. He sat out the entire season. It’s odd that a 29-year-old guy with starting experience at three offensive line positions was available, but fortunately for us he was out there.
Q. When you look at other teams’ rosters at quarterback and compare it to your depth chart at that position, how do you think your backups compare?
A. The thing I like about our quarterback situation is that we have four guys – including Ben Roethlisberger – who have starting experience. Dennis Dixon has only started one game, but he still has started a game in the National Football League. I’m not sure any other team can make that claim. That’s the most comforting thing about our quarterback situation. Obviously, we’re not going to have our starter for a period of time still to be determined, but we know we have three other guys who have started and been successful in this league.
Q. If you were a fan sitting up on the hills overlooking practice at this camp, which young players would you be most interested in watching?
A. You’re looking for your young players to take a step. You’re always excited about what the draft picks are, because you’ve never seen them in live competition, except for the dressed-down work they do at minicamp and the OTAs. So with that in mind, offensively, I’d like to see if Mike Wallace can take another step after he obviously showed some things last year, and also Rashard Mendenhall. He had a good season last year, and can he follow up and exceed that. Those would be two exciting guys. Defensively, there really isn’t a lot of uncertainty as far as the starters or new guys. It’ll be good to see how Bryant McFadden fits back into the defense, and how Keenan Lewis, who was held back somewhat by injury last year, can improve or progress in his second training camp.
Q. Is this team too old?
Q. Why do you say that?
A. I don’t even know what the average age is around the league, because I don’t get into all of that. You have to have certain ages in certain numbers of guys, and you obviously want to continue to bring young talent to the team. But our concern with the 53 guys who end up making the final roster and the 22 starters is can they compete and help us win. We’re interested in winning now. With that being said, we constantly have to be adding players to the group, and we believe we have done that, and hopefully those young players will help us win either now or down the road. But the focus has to be the now. That’s all we’re worried about – 2010.