Steelers notebook: GM Colbert looks for ways to keep players healthy
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert met Wednesday with the trainers and strength and conditioning staff to review all players with medical issues — and how to keep players healthy. Colbert credits safety Troy Polamalu with altering his training regimen last year after missing nine games in 2012 with a calf injury. “He's the perfect example of someone who changed with positive results,” Colbert said of Polamalu, who played in all 16 games in 2013.
• With the March 11 start to free agency less than a month away, the Steelers are in, by far, the worst shape of any AFC North team. They're $10.65 million over the cap; the Browns ($60 million), Bengals ($23 million) and Ravens ($12 million) are below the cap.
• Former Steelers running backs coach Kirby Wilson took the same job with the Vikings because he wants to become an offensive coordinator. “After a certain number of years in your career, you look for a change sometimes,” he told 93.7 FM The Fan. Wilson also said his relationship with offensive coordinator Todd Haley was “very good” and he is grateful the Steelers let him out of his contract to take another job. He also thought he was going to get the Ravens' coordinator's job.
• The Steelers are discussing contracts with some of their 21 free agents, Colbert said, but he wouldn't identify them. Team president Art Rooney II said recently that outside linebacker Jason Worilds is among the targets.
• Outside linebacker Sean Spence still hasn't gotten on the field in the nearly two years since being drafted; a major knee injury during camp in 2012 threatened his career. But Colbert said he had “one great day of practice” last season before breaking his hand. “Maybe that small sampling he gave us was enough to show that he can be fully recovered from this injury,” Colbert said.
• Colbert believes the 2014 draft class is “as deep across the board” as any he has seen in 30 years, partly because of the 100-plus early entries. But he said some underclassmen are declaring for the draft too early and aren't ready for the NFL. “We're concerned about how many of those players came out prematurely and won't be ready for this next challenge,” he said.
• The Steelers will evaluate Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam like any other player. Sam is the first openly gay player to ever enter the draft. “As an organization, we will not discriminate against any player based on sexual orientation,” Colbert said.
• Newly hired assistant Mike Munchak was “one of the most respected, if not the most-respected, line coaches” in the league, according to Colbert, before being the Titans' head coach the last three seasons. “I think they (the younger linemen) will be all eyes and ears when you have a Hall of Fame player talking to you and trying to teach you,” Colbert said.
• Safety Ryan Clark, an unrestricted free agent, is free to express any opinion he wants, Colbert said. Clark said last week on ESPN2 that some Steelers players smoke marijuana to relieve pain and reduce stress. But, Colbert said, “What has to be distinguished is that that's the opinion of a player and certainly not of an organization.”
• Nose tackle Steve McLendon was “OK” in his first season as a starter replacing Casey Hampton, according to Colbert, but, “To say that anyone was good enough, including myself, when you're 8-8, I think that's a disservice to the organization.”