Steelers GM Kevin Colbert was a guest on Trib Live Radio today with me and Guy Junker. Here is a transcript of that chat:
What are you and the staff doing now?
"There's really four phases of where you are. The first phase is a season review. You've got to look at your [salary] cap situation and work on that. Then you've got to work on the free agency that will be coming up starting March 12th and then of course the draft is something we're working on year round, but everything starts to come together right now. After the season ends, coaches will do their evaluations, myself and Art Rooney and Coach Tomlin will sit down and put those thoughts together on where we might be cap wise and what we've got to do."
Do you know for sure that Todd Haley and Omar Khan will be returning to the team?
"I'm assuming Coach Haley, obviously they hired Coach Arians out in Arizona so that fills all the head coaching vacancies so I'm sure Todd will be back and we're happy that he is back. I don't know if Omar has heard definitively what's going on in New York yet or not. I know there's some rumors to the effect but I don't think a final decision has been announced that I'm aware of."
On Omar Khan's GM readiness:
"He observes, he's been here at least ten years, so he observes what we do, how we do it. I think he understands the role. And his role has been to handle the salary cap issues for us and contract negotiations and he's been great at that. He also has had some other duties inside the organization with travel and some of the business areas. But he's always paying attention to the player management side of things, and he gets it, he understands that. If he were to become a general manager it would be more from that aspect of things and he'd have someone working with him for the personnel end of things. But he certainly understands it and when he gets his opportunity he'll be very successful."
On Marcus Gilbert or Mike Adams vying to be the team's starting LT:
"I'm sure it's still to be determined because both unfortunately missed a lot of time last year with injury. Of course Marcus was put on reserve/injured early in the season. And the Mike, we kind of held him back because of the ankle and he didn't quite recover from that in time. He tried to get ready but it just didn't respond and he needed more time and of course we ran out of time. Both of those guys will come back in and be healthy and be ready to compete. But what mix of offensive linemen we'll have I couldn't even venture a guess yet because it's too early in free agency and whether we're able to keep a guy like Ramon Foster or Max Starks is yet to be determined."
On judging players coming off of injuries:
"I think it goes together. The only way you can judge health is where they are, if an injury occurs, and how they rehabbed and how the prognosis is that the doctors give you for their full recovery and ability to participate. You hope for the best. I think you can look back at Max Starks who had a neck issue and then a knee issue and this year he came back because the prognosis looked good. He came back and was able to play sixteen games. You have to trust your medical people, and you do have to guess to a certain extent. But even when you talk about the running game, sure it would have been great to have five guys together but still it's my job if the sixth guy or the eigth guy, whoever has to go in, if they don't perform then I didn't provide the right depth. We constantly have to make educated guesses not only to the health of the players but should that player progress or regress. There's a lot of factors that weigh into it and that's what we have to try and figure out."
On CB Keenan Lewis:
"I really wouldn't say late-bloomer because it was his third year. He was more of a [special] teams guy early, he moved into a nickel role and got his opportunity and did play well for us. So that's encouraging, but again as any of the free agents we don't know what their market is and probably don't know what it will be until free agency starts because it only takes one team to set a market. So usually an agent will be reluctant to do a deal until he has that information. I'm pretty sure that's going to be the case with Keenan and I'm sure he will attract some interest because he's a young corner that played pretty well for us last year. We anticipate him having interest, of course we'll have to look at our interest and what we're going to be able to do once we collectively put all these pieces together. It's always about plusses and minuses. We can sign any player we want, but what's it going to cost us on the other end to make it fit from a cap standpoint."
On how you fix a poor turnover ratio:
"When you think of a turnover offensively, it's never just a quarterback throwing an interception or a running back fumbling the ball or a receiver fumbling the ball. Did the offensive line give the quarterback enough protection to get the ball off? Did the receiver run the correct route? Did the running back see the defender that's going to hit him or was a block missed up front. It's never as clean as it looks. The same thing defensively, if we're not getting enough pressure guys have more time to run routes, it's harder to intercept the ball. Or if we do get pressure and we're there do we play the man instead of the ball. There's a lot of different things that go into it and we have to examine all of that. In the end it's still about the bottom line. When you lose seven out of eight and that differential is higher than the margin of victory it's a glaring consistency that you're not real comfortable with."
On why the team kept Alameda Ta'amu but cut Chris Rainey after legal incidents:
"It does aggravate me because just like when a player doesn't work out from a talent standpoint, I was the one that signed off and said it would. Really I can't address each of the incidents because they're still open legal cases. But if we choose to remove a player from the roster you have to assume that player has lost the trust of the organization. And that's really it. It's an individual situation, an individual determination by myself and Coach Tomlin and Art Rooney. Sometimes we'll decide to move on. It's not always a second-chance type scenario, it might be a first-offense type scenario. It all depends on the circumstance and the offense. A lot of thought goes into it, it's not a knee-jerk reaction. People will say it's based on talent more than it is the offense and I disagree with that. And the only thing I can point to is in our draft preparations we do homework on players and we will reject significant players. And I'm talking about first-round talents that we decide we don't want to assume the risk if they do have a character issue. But when we do assume the risk sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. Obviously we had two cases this year that didn't work for us, and again that falls on me because I was the guy to say, OK, we can assume this risk. Going forward does that mean that you're not going to look at guys that have risk? No, I think that's unrealistic because a lot of the guys that are in the draft pool do have character challenges. And again, that's up to us to assess that and determine if we want to take the risk and if we do, we've got to be ready not only if the player does good but we've got to be ready for the consequences if it doesn't."
On Ike Taylor saying Art Rooney lets him sleep on his office couch:
"If I did let anybody sleep it certainly wouldn't be Ike. I think he has a little flair for the dramatic. He's well thought of but he ain't sleeping on my couch."