Steelers GM Kevin Colbert plans big things with draft 'ammunition'

PHOENIX -- Kevin Colbert sat in the corner of the Arizona Biltmore on a perfect March day and might as well have been on the clock.

His eagerness for the NFL draft was unmistakable.

The departures of Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell, coupled with the Pittsburgh Steelers' first playoff miss since 2013, places Colbert squarely in the spotlight.

The man armed with 10 draft picks doesn't seem to mind at all. The Steelers appear open for business.

"Right now we have to establish who we are in 2019. 2018 is history," Colbert told a group of Pittsburgh-area reporters at the owners meetings on Sunday. "We don’t like being in a position where we’re not a playoff team. That’s not acceptable by any stretch of the imagination.”

It's up to Pittsburgh to replenish the roster. And though Colbert said the team got three free agents with starting experience in corner Steven Nelson, receiver Donte Moncrief and linebacker Mark Barron, this draft marks one of the most crucial of Colbert's nearly decade-long tenure as general manager.

The Steelers need a receiver weapon to offset the loss of Brown, a long-term solution at inside linebacker, and a palatable stable of cornerbacks after some undeniable misses.

The Steelers drafted five corners in the top five rounds from 2015 to '17 and have no projected starters to show for it. Nelson and Joe Haden were both added in free agency. Developing a corner into a starter should be a primary goal. The Steelers also have had mixed results with drafting pass-rushers in the first round.

To be sure, the Steelers are one of the most consistent teams on draft day. Three picks from the same class -- running back James Conner, linebacker T.J. Watt and receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster -- were on the same Pro Bowl roster in January. The Steelers' reputation for drafting receivers is unmatched. But there are holes to fill thanks to a few misses, which happen to every team.

With four of the first 83 selections, the Steelers can choose to sit back and take the best players available. Colbert seems ready to attack if necessary, perhaps using one of their Day 2 picks to move up from the 20th overall selection.

“When you have 10, you have more ammunition to either take 10 players or use ammunition to trade up," Colbert said.

The Steelers generally aren't aggressive on draft days, and the 20th pick might be high enough to find a long-term solution on defense.

Regardless, Colbert will envision success for each pick.

"That sixth (round pick) might be Antonio Brown," Colbert said. "A seventh, you say just throw in a seventh, well that might have been Brett Keisel. You never want to say it’s a pick. You try to associate a player that you could get with those picks."