Thursday, February 15, 2007
By Teresa Varley
Steelers scouts and coaches will start their final preparation for free agency today and will meet for the next few weeks on the different positions they have targeted as they prepare for the start of free agency on March 2.
"We will look at what is going to be available and compare it to what you have and see if there is some way we can upgrade through an exchange of players or a combination of players," said director of football operations Kevin Colbert. "Those are the things we will be doing along with the draft and cap all mixed in together.
"This thing will evolve and change over the next four weeks. No one knows where it goes. Once you start talking to a player, and realize you want him, but you need more cap room to afford that player. How do you get that cap room? That might dictate your decision."
For the past two weeks the assistant coaches have been evaluating players that the scouts assigned to them and the meetings give them a chance to share their opinions of the players.
"It's somewhat the same as with college meetings," said Colbert. "Our scouts scouted players throughout the season. They make recommendations to the coaches. The coaches are asked to make evaluations. Then we will sit down collectively and come up with our free agency list.
"It's a little different than college in that there are certain positions we don't look at because we feel we are okay at that position or we can't help ourselves through free agency or because of the cap. That is the only difference between that and the college meetings."
The Steelers find themselves in relatively good shape going into free agency. They don't have any starters who are unrestricted free agents and right tackle Max Starks is the only starter who is a restricted free agent.
Even though they are in good shape, they know they still have to upgrade their roster, especially after the disappointing season last year.
"We need to continue to build our depth" said Colbert. "Being that we were 8-8 we need to be better than we were last year. Our percentage of players under contract is high so how do you do that? You have to add from the bottom up and that's how we will do it with the draft and free agency.
"For us to think we can stand pat and be better than that would be naīve on our part."
The Steelers can negotiate only with their own players who are going to become unrestricted free agents, and Colbert said they are starting into the process of feeling that out, although he would not identify what players, if any, they have actually already contacted. They will continue to use free agency as they have in the past, always looking to upgrade.
"It's almost the same as in previous years," said Colbert. "We will be tight to the cap. You can always have the ability to be a player in free agency. To what degree will be determined by pluses and minuses from your own roster."