Steelers hope to fill roster gaps in upcoming draft
ORLANDO, Fla. — General manager Kelvin Colbert dropped a few hints before the free-agent signing period began that the Steelers might be more active than usual.
Still, given the Steelers' normal, sit-on-the-sideline policy and the $15 million salary-cap deficit they were running at the time, it didn't seem possible Colbert could do more than some minor tweaking.
But that roster reshuffling is fast becoming a roster makeover, led by the signing of new starting free safety Mike Mitchell. And coach Mike Tomlin is predicting the 2014 Steelers won't be in place until another nine or 10 players are added — and he wasn't referring just to the usual training camp bodies.
The Steelers picked up another experienced player Monday by bringing in former Bills linebacker Arthur Moats to back up outside linebackers Jason Worilds and Jarvis Jones, provide position flexibility and play special teams. He joins wide receiver Lance Moore, who was signed Friday to replace Jerricho Cotchery as the slot receiver, and 330-pound defensive lineman Cam Thomas, who can play either end or nose tackle but seems likely to line up outside.
Tomlin said all of these pickups are “insulating us against the unknown.”
Already, the Steelers are experiencing one of their most active signing periods of the Colbert-Tomlin partnership.
What could be next?
• A starting wide receiver to replace Emmanuel Sanders. That player likely won't be signed but rather drafted. Colbert said a best-in-30-years draft class will offer value in every round. The GM and coach plan to attend Texas A&M's pro day, where certain first-round wide receiver Mike Evans will be on display. Last week, they dropped by Florida State, in part to scout another 6-foot-5 wide receiver with first-round potential, Kelvin Benjamin.
“The draft is very deep with all kinds of shapes and sizes of receivers,” Colbert said.
• An experienced running back to back up Le'Veon Bell. Maurice Jones-Drew of the Jaguars visited last week; LeGarrette Blount of the Patriots will be in town Friday. No one on the roster aside from Bell has NFL carries, and this isn't a position the Steelers are likely to entrust to a lower-round draft pick.
“It would be good to get a ‘been there, done that' type of guy in the room to maybe help him (Bell) with growth and development,” Tomlin said.
• A backup inside linebacker. There's so much uncertainty about the badly injured knee that has sidelined 2012 draft pick Sean Spence the last two seasons that the Steelers can't even pencil him into their plans.
• Another defensive lineman, although Colbert likes Thomas' ability to play end or inside. But if Thomas and Cam Heyward wind up starting at end, leaving Steve McLendon in the middle, the Steelers will have no NFL-experienced backups.
“We are still very much in the process of building for 2014,” Tomlin said.
And they're building in a different way than usual, too.
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.