Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert was a guest on TribLIVE Radio on Tuesday February 23rd, on the eve of the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. Here is the transcript of Mr. Colbert’s Q&A with TribLIVE Radio hosts Ken Laird and Tim Benz:


On what Heath Miller meant to the franchise:

“Yeah, that’s really difficult because Heath was probably the best combination of character and football player that I’ve ever been associated with. I’ve been with a lot of great players and a lot of great people but, boy, Heath just surely encompassed the best of both worlds. We’ll miss him. We’ll miss him from the body of our team but we’ll certainly miss him from the soul of our team as well because Heath was a big, big part of our success. We wish Heath and his family nothing but the best.”


How do you plan to use the freed-up $4 million in cap space?

“I think you can go a bunch of different ways. It creates some room but it also creates a hole that needs to be filled. We’ll look at all of the options and try to piece together the best players we can; not necessarily just another tight end but can we use that room to maybe help shore us up defensively or a combination of the positions? There’s just so many options and so many different ways to go. It’s still new to us as well, because Heath obviously just decided this on Friday. We had some thought that it could occur but we didn’t know it would occur at this point. We’ll regroup and this is what this week is for in Indianapolis and at the same time free agency is starting to evolve. It’s just a matter of putting it all together, but we’re putting it together without a significant player and with more room to work with now.”

Is Jesse James starter capable and is Hunter Henry the best available tight end in the 2016 draft class?

“Jesse made strides last year. Jesse was a young player having come out [of college] as a junior and we always say when you get a junior you always get him for their senior year as a rookie. He grew as the year went on and he gained our coaching staff’s confidence, his teammates’ confidence, and we think that growth will continue. Where he is come the end of August none of us know at this point. We’ll see where that goes.”


“We never answer specific questions about a player in the draft, and this week we’re learning about all 330 [players at the Scouting Combine] because there’s certainly a big group. We know some stuff about them but we don’t know everything that’s for sure.”

Have you been able to talk with James Harrison? Where does his future stand?

“I think James stated it best. I made the comment that there’s certainly no hesitation on our end to bring James back and James was very up-front and honest and just said, ‘I want to see where I am after my normal training routine.’ Because he feels that if he’s not where he wants to be or where he thinks he needs to be in order to get through a 16-week season then he may decide that that’s enough. But I’m pretty optimistic that James – knowing his work ethic, knowing how he really wants to play another year – I’m optimistic and hopeful that after those six weeks he emerges and wants to still play because he certainly can help us out, for sure.”


What’s your approach to the secondary this offseason? Could you fill a starting position in free agency?

“Those options are open. We have four guys up in Will Allen, Will Gay, Antwon Blake, and Robert Golden, and Brandin Boykin is a free agent as well. We have a lot of guys up. We certainly would entertain bringing one, two, or all of those guys back. We’ve looked at the field. We’ll see where that market starts to set itself here in the coming weeks and see if we can possibly sign someone from the outside. We’re always measuring what’s available in free agency against what’s available in the draft. The draft is shaping up as a defensive draft and the secondary position — both safety and corner — they’re strong which is encouraging to us. I think we’ll have a lot of options, both in free agency and the draft.”

Would you consider drafting 4-3 defensive ends this year?

“It has changed because of the change in how teams strategize: the offense and the defenses changing to match those offenses. In the past we’ve been a base 3-4 team and we’re still a base 3-4 team but we’re in our sub-packages — specifically, our nickels and dimes and different varieties of those different sub-packages — right at 75%. Guys that maybe didn’t fit or didn’t have a role — for example a nickel-back has always been kind of a backup position, a spot-play position — well now they could be considered starters. What we’re seeing is role players actually having roles as starters and guys in the past that were starters being reduced to more role players just because of the way this thing changes. It opens up more opportunities for us to consider guys that maybe didn’t fit our scheme in the past that maybe fit our sub-packages, which really become our primary packages in today’s game.”

Is this part of the reason it would help to get James Harrison back one more year, to make changes to approach after next season?

“We just look at it as this year. I don’t know anything until it happens but I’m confident that James could still help us this season. I know he helps the young guys, both Jarvis [Jones] and Bud [Dupree], and ever Arthur [Moats] at this stage of his career still looks at James as a mentor. And James teaches those guys how to be pros just in the way he shows up in the offseason. He takes some of them to Arizona with him and shows them how to train, and the way he carries himself over when he gets back here. You couple that with his ability to still contribute as he did last season and hopefully can this season, I think it would just help us in 2016. What happens beyond that none of us know, and we don’t even know if he’ll be back for sure but again we’re confident that he can and hopeful that he will.”

How are the prices vs. the value on the free agent market these days?

“It varies by team, it varies by player, it varies by situations. We’re certainly not big players in free agency. We never have been and probably never will be, but when we have a specific need, a specific hole and we don’t feel we have somebody in the pipeline ready to step up into that role and we’re not confident that the draft or the opportunity to draft a player at a certain position will present itself then that’s usually where we’ve stepped up and signed a James Farrior, or a Jeff Hartings, or a Mike Mitchell. We’re very specific about when we do that and how we do that, and between now and mid-March when free agency hits we’ll have a much better feel of the draft class. But as I said earlier, it’s shaping up as a defensive draft so our need or want to go into free agency and how much we can afford to pay for a free agent might be tempered by what’s available in the draft.”

Is it your hope to get something done with Le’Veon Bell contractually this offseason, or will you wait and see how his knee performs next year?

“Again, we never talk about an individual contract or a negotiation, but I applaud you for trying, you never give up (laughs). Anytime a player is injured unfortunately, you’re hopeful that he can come back. And we’ve signed players that have been injured before, Maurkice [Pouncey] had the serious knee injury and of course we signed him to his contract while he was still rehabilitating. For your own players, you know where they are in their rehab process better than you would say a player coming from another organization. We’re alway in-tune to that and you certainly want to keep great players if they have a future. We’re always going to tend to the business at hand first, getting through this week, getting through free agency with the guys that are currently available and we always look at next year’s potential business when we get into the late Spring and early Summer before training camp to see if there’s anybody that’s one year out [from free agency].”


How is Maurkice Pouncey and can Cody Wallace be your left guard?

“Maurkice has progressed very well. He’s in our building at this time of the year. He’s rehabbing, he’s starting to move from the rehab and into the conditioning phase so he’s progressing well. Cody did a great job filling in for Maurkice last year, and he has played center, he has played guard. He’s mostly been a center for us, some guard here and there, but never for the length of time that he did at center. He did a great job last year at center and at least having the option to have him as a center/guard when Maurkice comes back full speed, it’s good to have. But I applaud him for being able to step up and fill that void.”


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