Steelers reassessing character issues during NFL Draft
Kevin Colbert is considered among the preeminent general managers in the NFL. He can boast of having more hits than misses, especially when evaluating the character of draft selections during his tenure with the Steelers.
However, the jury is still out on the 2012 draft class, partly because of lingering questions of why the organization seemingly overlooked — or excused — a couple of draft picks' apparent character flaws while in college.
Nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu and running back Chris Rainey were entangled in off-field incidents that left a black eye on an organization that prides itself on weeding through character deficiencies.
Ta'amu, a fourth-round pick, was once considered the heir apparent to Casey Hampton. But a drunken foray through the streets of Pittsburgh last fall still clouds his future.
Ta'amu, sentenced to 18 months probation earlier this month, pled guilty to reckless endangerment, resisting arrest and drunken driving stemming from an incident in which his SUV struck four parked vehicles and injured a female passenger.
The Steelers suspended Ta'amu and waived him a few days later. By season's end, he was back on the roster.
Rainey, a fifth-round selection, was arrested after a domestic dispute shortly after the regular-season finale. Colbert said in a statement that Rainey's actions were “extremely disappointing” when the Steelers released him.
Yet, the Steelers haven't reconciled their reasoning for keeping Ta'amu on the roster for actions that endangered lives.
“Over the course of Colbert's tenure there, he's been among the best at drafting solid citizens, and the coaches have done a good job of developing them into players,” said Charlie Casserly, a former general manager with Washington and Houston. “If I'm a Steelers fan, I'm not going to panic because the Steelers have a track record of success.”
On Monday, Colbert insisted this year's draft isn't unlike any other. The organization hasn't changed the way it assesses potential character flaws of players on its draft board — except consulting with family members to gauge the athletes' temperament.
However, the Steelers were in the unenviable position of having to reassess their pre-draft evaluations of Ta'amu and Rainey.
While coach Mike Tomlin appeared disappointed at the incident involving Ta'amu, there were signs of possible trouble. Ta'amu told the Tribune-Review last fall that the organization was aware of his previous legal troubles while attending the University of Washington.
Ta'amu had been charged with driving under the influence in 2009 while at Washington, which ended with a guilty plea of negligent driving. Rainey was charged with aggravated stalking during his junior year at the University of Florida.
Still, Colbert insisted nothing has changed in how potential draft picks are being evaluated, particularly with matters of character.
“It's been the same evaluation, the same process,” said Colbert, in his third year as general manager after spending 11 years as director of football operations. “When you try to figure out a player's character, it starts with the reports from college that we get.
“It follows up with our own personal interviews and background checks. Coach Tomlin and I did a lot of follow-up work this past spring when we visited the pro days.”
In an effort to remedy possible flawed evaluations, the organization focused more on having discussions with the families of draft-eligible players to better assess their character.
“We actually tried to be a little more proactive in trying to meet families,” Colbert said. “It is something that Coach Tomlin started three years ago. After we draft players, we start to bring their families in to get to know the kids that we drafted.”
“I just think it helps us develop a more complete picture about whom and what a player is, and maybe more importantly, what he is capable of being,” Tomlin said. “I think the more you look at where they come from and who they come from, it helps you paint that well-rounded picture.”
Colbert said efforts have been made to meet with potential draft picks and their families during pro days. However, it's often a difficult task when a player's family doesn't reside near campus.
“We did try to make a conscious effort to extend the program Coach Tomlin started three years ago, visiting with families as a pre-draft thing,” Colbert said. “I think that would be the only difference. All the background checks and the psychological examinations or interviews that we do are exactly the same.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Elsie Hillman, philanthropist and one-time GOP powerhouse, dies at 89
- Steelers defensive end Tuitt shifts into high gear
- Pittsburgh officials unveil major changes to police response to violent crime
- Groups appeal Shell air permit for Beaver County project
- Man accused in crash that killed Export driver rejects plea offer
- Baldwin Borough man pleads guilty in white supremacist bombs case
- Uniontown man sentenced to 30 months for threatening Obama and his family
- Delphi buys CMU spinoff that makes self-driving car software
- Rossi: Pirates foolish to bet on Burnett return
- Westmoreland Co. businessman going to prison
- One man dead in McKees Rocks shooting