PITTSBURGH -- A lot of Steelers fans probably won’t like to hear this: Kevin Colbert said the team won’t go into the NFL draft expecting to land an immediate starter.
“I don’t think we can say that there’s going to be an impact guy that’s going to come in and be a starter,” the Steelers general manager said on Monday. “I think they’ll certainly be able to compete and maybe to contribute in some of the sub-packages and they’ll continue to develop."
Such a conservative outlook for the players the Steelers will draft this week is seemingly at odds with Colbert’s assessment of how deep and talented this class is. But it is actually consistent with the approach the Steelers take with the players they draft.
No matter how much it frustrates fans, the Steelers firmly – or stubbornly, depending on your vantage point – stick to the philosophy that it is better to be too patient with a rookie rather than to rush him.
Not that there haven’t been exceptions as far as rookies playing right away and not just on special teams.
Center Maurkice Pouncey established himself as a starter before the start of his first NFL season in 2010 and outside linebacker Jarvis Jones started eight games last season while running back Le'Veon Bell started as soon as he was healthy.
But the Steelers will go into the 2014 season expecting major contributions from second-year players such as Jones, wide receiver Markus Wheaton and safety Shamarko Thomas -- and hoping they don’t have to rely too heavily on the players they draft later this week.
"Depending on how mature [the rookies] are and how smart they are I think will determine how quick they contribute more than their talent," Colbert said. "There’s still going to be some growing that’s going to have to happen.”
Colbert said the Steelers have ruled out a couple of positions as far as addressing with their first-round pick if they stay at No. 15 overall. If they trade down, Colbert said, any position is in play with the Steelers’ first pick.
When asked if the Steelers are less likely to take an outside linebacker with their first-round pick since they used their top selection on Jones last year Colbert said, “Not if they’re a great player.”