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Brown: Steelers study first-round options

| Monday, April 2, 2007

What the Steelers have done during the free-agent signing period -- or, better put, what they haven't done -- is more proof that the team prefers to replenish its roster the old-fashioned way.

To that end, director of football operations Kevin Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin will meet today with team scouts in what will be the first of what figure to be many discussions about what strategy the Steelers will take into the NFL Draft.

Last week, while Colbert and Tomlin were at the NFL owners' meetings in Phoenix, college scouting coordinator Ron Hughes and others in player personnel started putting together a list of players that the Steelers would have interest in as second-day draft picks or undrafted free agents.

Today's meeting will focus on the first day of the draft -- the first three rounds will be held April 28 and rounds four through seven will be conducted April 29 -- and will be the unofficial start of a process in which the Steelers identify 15 players they would take with their first-round pick.

"I know there's 15 good players, and we'll get one of them for sure," Colbert said.

The one position the Steelers have ruled out addressing with their first-round pick (15th overall) is quarterback, and Tomlin said they won't take a player just because he would fill a pressing need.

"You've got to be very careful drafting based on need," Tomlin said. "That's when you make mistakes. You like to think that you give yourself enough flexibility with the moves that you made because of acquiring people (in) free agency that you can draft the best (player) available."

It is highly debatable whether the Steelers have indeed given themselves that kind of flexibility.

Their only significant signing has been offensive lineman Sean Mahan, and they have not added a player that would either challenge for the starting job left open by outside linebacker Joey Porter's release or provide depth at the position.

"There always will be needs," Tomlin said, "but not so glaring that you feel like you need to take certain positions in certain spots."

Many of the mock drafts have the Steelers taking a pass-rushing outside linebacker, which is not surprising given their need for an edge pass rusher and Tomlin's background as a defensive coach.

That's not to say the Steelers won't take an offensive player with their first pick for the fourth consecutive year.

They wouldn't hurt themselves by getting younger along the offensive line, and wide receiver is perhaps the deepest position in the draft.

The Steelers traded up in the first round last year to take Ohio State wide receiver Santonio Holmes, but they still may want to upgrade the position.

The direction the Steelers go in the draft will be determined in the coming weeks, as the evaluation process that started nearly a year ago shifts into overdrive.

Along with discussions about various prospects over the next couple of weeks, the Steelers will bring ones in which they have serious interest for an interview.

"We have a general idea right now," Colbert said on what the Steelers will do in the draft, "but until we get into the nuts and bolts of the meetings and finalize it we really don't have that list yet because we're still gathering information."

The Steelers, he said, are not just focused on the kind of players they will get in the first three rounds.

The success of a draft is frequently determined by the kind of picks teams make on the second day.

The Steelers didn't fare well in this area last year, as only two of their six second-day picks made the team and only one (offensive tackle Willie Colon) saw any game action.

"We're optimistic that we can get players that can help us into the second day," Colbert said.

Additional Information:

2007 NFL Draft

When and where: April 28-29 in New York City

Status : The Steelers have the 15th overall pick and nine selections in the draft. They have their own pick in each of the seven rounds, as well as compensatory picks at the end of both the fourth and fifth rounds.

History : No. 1 picks this decade were WR Santonio Holmes (2006), TE Heath Miller (2005), QB Ben Roethlisberger (2004), S Troy Polamalu (2003), G Kendall Simmons (2002), DT Casey Hampton (2001) and WR Plaxico Burress (2000).

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