Tuesday, February 20, 2007
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The bonding experience continues for the new Steelers coaching staff and scouting department when they converge on Indianapolis starting Thursday.
Coach Mike Tomlin, hired one month ago today, and his staff have spent much of their time evaluating their players and potential free agents; now they have a chance to focus on this year's rookie crop when they camp out at the NFL Scouting Combine this week.
The Steelers have the 15th pick in the draft and the stakes and talent increase in the first half of the draft, something the team has not experienced since it selected Ben Roethlisberger with the 11th choice in 2004. It's the second highest the Steelers are scheduled to select in the past seven drafts.
For sure, they won't draft a quarterback with their first pick this year. After that, everything's open, said their resident draft expert.
"It's hard to see locking out any position high except quarterback. Really, we wouldn't do that," said Kevin Colbert, their football operations director.
That, he said, would include wide receiver, a position the Steelers have spent draft picks and money trying to upgrade the past two seasons.
Two years ago, their only significant signing in free agency was wide receiver Cedrick Wilson. Last year, they drafted two receivers in the higher rounds-- Santonio Holmes in the first and Willie Reid in the third.
That would not prevent the team from drafting a wide receiver with the 15th pick in April, Colbert said.
"At this point, I would say wide receiver is the strongest position," Colbert said of the draft. "After that, probably safety."
In spite of their recent attempts, the Steelers might not believe they have enough depth at wide receiver to use four of them on first and second downs, as new coordinator Bruce Arians has said he would like to deploy. Hines Ward and Holmes are the starters with Wilson and Nate Washington filling out the top four.
Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson is rated the top prospect in the draft by Tom Marino of scout.com. Coincidentally, the next receiver listed by Marino is Holmes' former Ohio State teammate Ted Ginn -- at 15th. Ginn, who injured his ankle celebrating his opening touchdown in the national championship game, will attend the Combine but will not run. They are two of four wide receivers listed in the top 32 by scout.com.