Steelers GM Colbert says interviews with prospects reveal plenty about personality
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert has a postcard in his office with some solid advice scribbled on it.
It was from Art Rooney Jr., the former Steelers scouting director and the man mostly responsible for the 1974 NFL Draft that produced Hall of Famers Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth and Mike Webster.
“He said, ‘Don't mistake kindness for weakness,' ” Colbert said.
In his 16 years with the Steelers, Colbert rarely made that mistake. If he did, he wouldn't have used first-round picks on Troy Polamalu, David DeCastro and Heath Miller.
Colbert doesn't plan to change what he does anytime soon.
The NFL Combine — the Super Bowl for scouting departments — will run Feb. 23-29 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, where 332 draft-eligible prospects will be judged on everything from their 40-yard dash and 3-cone drill skills to the size of their hands.
While Colbert, his scouting staff, coach Mike Tomlin and his assistants will take part in that process, the Steelers value the Combine for something more tangible than if a cornerback has stiff hips — the interviews.
Each team is permitted up to 60 player interviews at the Combine, and the Steelers value every single one and will use every single one. They likely will ask about everything except football.
“You only get 15 minutes during the formal interview, so you are trying to get a snapshot of his personality,” Colbert said. “You really are just trying to get a feel for their personality, their parents, siblings, what their background has been, what their educational background is and where they stand in school, some of the legalities.”
The Steelers conducted 58 player interviews at the Senior Bowl last month and are permitted to bring up to 30 more prospects to their facility leading up to the draft for more of an in-depth visit. Combined with the 60 visits at the Combine, and the Steelers get one-on-one time with the majority of the players they are potentially interested in drafting.
If the Steelers don't talk to you, it is a pretty good chance they won't be drafting you.
Some impress, but some are immediately taken off the Steelers' draft board after a 15-minute interview.
“It was just obvious that they weren't going to be a good fit for our team,” Colbert said. “Right, wrong or indifferent, sometimes you form quick judgments. You just don't like their personality. That will happen. It will happen with the 60 we interview this year, I am sure. There will probably be a few we don't like.”
Colbert said his staff has a pretty good feeling about a player before they interview them. They typically only talk with players they feel they have a legitimate shot at drafting. With the Steelers picking 25th, they won't waste an interview on a projected top-10 choice.
“Most of the time, we have a good lead on (who, we interview),” Colbert said.
Colbert said he will provide Tomlin with an evaluation of a player before the formal interview.
“He will have a sheet in front of him that says this is what we think we know about this player,” Colbert said. “He may come in and confirm that. We've given him an opportunity to maybe overcome or sway us from what we were thinking, but they just kind of confirm it and you move on. There's always a chance to improve a player's playing ability. But sometimes a personality is very difficult to change.”
Being able to decipher a personality is a total different issue.
Tomlin talks about wanting to have players who have an edge, which could eliminate some very good players. That harkens back to Rooney Jr.'s words of wisdom: Don't mistake kindness for weakness.
“If you talk to Heath Miller, you don't get that edgy kind of feel when you talk to him one-on-one. But I think there's a huge difference when he hits the field,” Colbert said. “I think high-character guys can be great players as well.”