Pittsburgh Steelers GM Kevin Colbert met the press for almost an hour on Wednesday at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Here is part 1 of 3 transcripts on his talk, this first of which deals with issues surrounding the current rostered players of the team:
What's the latest with Hines Ward?
"Hines Ward is still on our roster. We won't know again, once we get the salary cap figure we'll know how much more work we have to do. We've done some work in forms of restructurings, we've done a few terminations, and they'll be more of both to come. We just don't know what combination that's going to be. As of right now Hines Ward is still a Pittsburgh Steeler and a great part of our history because he's been such a great contributor.
We don't know what we're dealing with from a cap standpoint, so we don't know. We have to look at multiple scenarios as to what we can and can't do. And what we're going to have to do. I can honestly say there can be more restructuring and there still can be more terminations, and that's where we have to leave it."
Is their value in having an elder statesman like Hines Ward around to help the younger guys?
"I think there's value in having experienced player at a group because you want someone to show them the way beyond their coaches, sure. But again ultimately that player has to be able to help you win. And not only be a mentor but a contributor as well."
How important is it for your 4th or 5th WR to play special teams?
"I mean it's usually important, last year we had six [receivers] and we had Arnaz Battle who was mainly a special teamer and then of course Antonio Brown was our primary return guy. They both did play teams, so you want to be able to if you can, great, but that won't be a deal breaker whether a guy's on the team or not. I think it's more of a bonus. That's why Arnaz was on our team last year."
Are you surprised you are in this much salary cap problem?
"No, we knew during the uncapped season we ran above the cap, we weren't the only team to do that. And we knew there could be consequences somewhere down the road for doing that, and obviously there are. And we expected to be where we are right now. We'll continue to deal with it, and we will be in compliance by March 13th but how we're going to get there over the next two-and-a-half weeks I can't tell you because I don't know what we're dealing with from a cap number."
On the team's RB situation:
"We're pretty sure we won't have Mendenhall early, so we'll have to see what mix we come out with."
Would you have to pay Mendenhall if you put him on IR?
"If there's performance bonuses and a guy doesn't perform, it could lessen it. Anything that's concrete is concrete. They make the same money on 'Physically Unable to Perform' that they do on active. Because you're actually an active player until you go on reserve, and then you still get complemented fully. We're not expecting him to be on IR for the year. What I said a few weeks back was an ACL could take a year to be 100%. That doesn't mean you can't play. A lot of guys play at 70%, 80%, so after 6-weeks he gets three weeks of practice. After those three weeks you have to decide whether to activate him or to put him on Reserve-PUP for the season. We anticipate he will be active someday."
Where is Hampton relative to Mendenhall?
"I think Hamp, it's a different position so you don't have to worry about speed, you don't have to worry about the quick change of direction when you talk about offensive or defensive linemen. And the one edge that Casey will have on anybody it he's been through this twice and he knows what to expect, how he's going to feel at a certain point and when he feels he's healthy. What else can you do, it is what it is."
Some people expected his career to be over with this third knee injury.
"We don't necessarily share that view because again, he knows how to do this. He knows how much work he's going to have to do and he knows how to do it."
Do you expect him to be on the team this year?
How do you know if Issac Redman and Steve McLendon can handle the load?
"You don't. Until someone goes the distance and plays sixteen games, you don't know they can. If they show it over four or five there's a good chance they can but until they do it we always say 'We don't know.' We're just hoping that they can.
Any concern with Maurkice Pouncey's high ankle injury?
"No. The last reports we got in that last time we've seen him he was progressing just fine. Without my medical degree, high ankle sprains are difficult injuries, and then when you re-injure it sometimes you've got to do some procedures to shore that joint up. It's not uncommon if there's been multiple injuries on that joint."
Did you say that Marcus Gilbert is going to be your starting LT next year?
"Ultimately that's Coach Tomlin's decision. If something would have happened in a game to Max Starks, sure Marcus Gilbert would have kicked over to LT and Jonathan Scott would have gone in at RT. This year we get Willie Colon back which we're very excited about, we haven't had him for two seasons and he had been our starting RT. So if we were to start a season right now, that's my guess but ultimately that's Coach Tomlin's call."
Any urgency you feel you need to address this year on defense more than any other?
"No. We've got one guy who is unrestricted and that's William Gay. So, I think it's a progressive replacement is what we try to do. We did that with Ziggy Hood, we did it with Cam Heyward coming into the mix. So, you just try to keep guys coming up from behind providing depth and providing competition. It's no different than it has been, really."
Is it possible you can bring both of your backup quarterbacks back?
Is it likely?
"I think so. I hope so. I think they're comfortable being part of it, and they understand the room. So yeah, I think they're open to that. They want to wait and see what's out there for them because when you're playing behind a great quarterback like that maybe you want to go somewhere else and have a better opportunity to start."
How about Dennis Dixon?
"I think being a young quarterback, I anticipate Dennis will [test the market], and I anticipate Dennis will have a lot of interest around the league. I don't think the league has seen the best of Dennis Dixon yet only because he's been behind a great quarterback and he's been held back by some injuries. Even coming into the league he's been behind the eight-ball with the knee injury like he had."
Who was the last fullback you had on the roster and do you miss that?
"Danny Kreider. Not necessarily, I mean whatever group you have you're going to try to run the type of offense that they're going to be best at. So whether or not we have a fullback in the mix I can't say. I don't think anybody knows at this point. Until our offensive staff, particularly Todd, gains an understanding of the players we do have and then we'll have to see what players we can add."
Do you expect Todd Haley do make drastic changes to the offense?
"I think any coach coming into a situation just like Mike [Tomlin] did and we had a 3-4 team, he looked at what we had, what we did, how we did it, and decided he wants to maybe add his personal touches but for the most part not change, so it's hard to come in and drastically change your philosophy because of the group of players that you have. You can't make drastic… you can't overhaul a whole roster in a season nor are we looking to because this group of players have been successful. So I think he'll learn what we have, we'll learn what he's kind of thinking about or looking for in a player and we'll try to keep progressing."
On TE Wes Saunders' suspension:
"The only thing I can say about the suspension is that it was a suspension for performance enhancing drugs, which is a one-time violation as opposed to street drugs which is usually a cumulation of violations. He will be suspended once the regular season starts."