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Draft best avenue for Steelers' rise

Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert speak to the media during their predraft news conference Monday, April 22, 2013, at Steelers headquarters on the South Side.

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By Alan Robinson
Monday, April 22, 2013, 1:15 p.m.

The Steelers don't expect to move up in the NFL Draft. They do expect to climb in the standings despite losing four starters since last season and replacing none of them.

What they're not explaining yet is how they plan to do it.

Free agency is winding down, and the draft looks to be the only route of getting better in a hurry for a team that went 8-8 last season, yet general manager Kevin Colbert said Monday the Steelers never expect any rookie to make an immediate impact.

“I don't envision anyone coming in and being an impact in Year 1,” Colbert said. “I never do because I think it is always a growing process that has to occur.”

Perhaps believing it will be a case of addition by subtraction. With Mike Wallace, Keenan Lewis, James Harrison and Rashard Mendenhall gone, Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin continued to pound the theme that staying the course would have meant getting the same results in 2013.

“If we have the same team that we had last year, it would be silly to expect different results,” Colbert said Monday. “So it's our job to try to improve that … . You'll be able to judge us in February, whether we got the job done or not.”

Tomlin added: “Our goals and mentality have not and will not change. We desire to be a legitimate competitor for the Lombardi Trophy each and every year, and 2013 is no different than '12 or '11, or '15 or '16, for that matter.”

The Steelers will have a different look if only because of the draft. Colbert said there are starters available throughout the first three rounds. The key is finding them.

“We've always stated that you have to have production from one, two and three,” Colbert said. “When you don't, you have a hole.”

Such as the Steelers are experiencing now with not a single member of their 2008 draft class remaining.

With significant needs at running back, wide receiver and outside linebacker, the Steelers probably will stay their usual course and take the best available player at No. 17.

Colbert doesn't expect to trade up, saying, “The more picks, the better, in this draft especially.”

“What comes to us at 17, who knows?” he said. “There will be a good player at No. 17.”

As for the players the Steelers have, Colbert said: “Maybe, at some point, we can extend Emmanuel (Sanders) to have him here on a longer-term basis.”

The Steelers matched the Patriots' $2.5 million offer to Wallace's heir apparent, but he remains unsigned past this season.

In other team news:

• Colbert and Tomlin offered no update on tight end Heath Miller and linebacker Sean Spence, who are recovering from major knee injuries.

• The Steelers will use their offseason practices to determine whether Mike Adams or Marcus Gilbert will start at left tackle. The other will play right tackle.

• Nose tackle Steve McLendon probably would have been offered a multiyear contract even if the Packers hadn't shown interest in him as a restricted free agent.

• The Steelers will assess the draft before determining if they need to bring in another running back. They have shown interest in Ahmad Bradshaw of the Giants.

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

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