Colbert busy scouting college seniors

PITTSBURGH -- The Senior Bowl is often seen as the unofficial start of the pre-draft process, a grueling evaluation period that lasts more than three months for the players who are eligible for the NFL draft.

That is because teams’ entire coaching and scouting staffs descend on Mobile, Ala., as is the case with the Steelers this week.

The annual all-star game, which will be played Saturday at 4 p.m. ET, and the practices that precede it give teams a chance to evaluate the top seniors in the country.

That doesn’t mean the Steelers haven’t been busy scouting all college seniors.

General manager Kevin Colbert headed a group that scouted the East-West Shrine Game last week while the Steelers also evaluated players in the NFLPA game.

Neither game generates the interest of the Senior Bowl or the NFL scouting combine, which will he held next month in Indianapolis.

But the Steelers have unearthed players from both major colleges and small schools who were overlooked for some reason during the pre-draft process. That is what happened with starting cornerback Cortez Allen in 2011, and the Steelers really took an interest in The Citadel product after The East-West Shrine Game that year.

“We got to the East-West game and he looks like he belongs competing against guys from Division I schools,” Colbert told Steelers.com. “That was another step in our evaluation of him.”

The Steelers picked Allen, who had played in the lower tier of Division I football, in the fourth round of the 2011 draft. And Allen, not third-round pick Curtis Brown of Texas, has emerged as the cornerback who could anchor the secondary in the coming seasons.

Colbert told Steelers.com that he was impressed by the defensive backs he scouted in the East-West Shrine Game, something that is encouraging for a team that is likely to address its secondary early and often in the 2014.

“The defensive backs group is an interesting group,” Colbert said. “It seems like there’s better talent than they’ve had in recent years.”