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On Wheaton: 'We expect him to produce'

Posted Feb 21, 2014

Some highlights from GM Kevin Colbert's media tour at the NFL Scouting Combine

 INDIANAPOLIS – In all, it was a tour lasting more than two hours. From the podium in the Media Center to a segment for Steelers Nation Radio to the set of Steelers.com Live to a one-on-one with ESPN’s John Clayton to a spot with Sirius Radio to a sit-down with Pro Football Talk to a shoot with USA Football. Thursday morning likely is General Manager Kevin Colbert’s least favorite part of the annual NFL Scouting Combine, because all he’s doing is moving from one microphone to another.

Always accomodating but not the type to spill secrets, Colbert occasionally will reveal little tidbits of interest. Here is a sampling from the 2014 Colbert Media Tour:

On how he now views last year’s decision to match the offer for then-RFA Emmanuel Sanders:
“With any decision, you look back on it and start with where we were. We finished 8-8. In my opinion, none of the decisions were good enough, because we weren’t in the playoffs. But Emmanuel Sanders came back and had a nice year for us. We were happy to have him. Where he goes in free agency and what his market is, we don’t know at this point. He certainly performed for us last year. We’ll see where he is in the future.”

On the development of Markus Wheaton as a potential replacement for Sanders:
“Markus had a setback last year. First, he couldn’t be with us for OTAs because of the agreement (the NFL has) with the colleges. So we didn’t get him until the tail end of OTAs in June. He came in behind. He worked his way into the rotation. Then he broke a finger. It heeled. He worked his way back in and broke another finger. It was just a medical frustration for him, but he has had some offseason surgeries to correct that further, and we’re hoping he has a nice year in 2014. You take a kid in the third round, you want him to produce. We expect him to produce. We hope that’s the case.”

On the process of weighing maturity against talent in evaluating players at the Combine:
“It’s an ongoing process. You talk to their coaches, their pro liaisons and as many people as you can. The personal interview is huge. How they handle sessions like this is huge. But it’s an educated guess, and we just keep our fingers crossed. Experience has told us that a lot of these younger players aren’t ready for this. It’s a huge leap, and I don’t think a lot of them understand that until they’re actually on a playing field and see the increase in the quality of play. That’s the physical part, and there’s also the emotional part of being a college kid and all of a sudden the next day being a professional.”

On what the Steelers learned about No. 1 pick Jarvis Jones and No. 2 pick Le’Veon Bell at last year’s Combine:
“We didn’t even interview Jarvis out here, because we didn’t think we had a realistic chance of him being there when we picked at No. 17 overall. He ran a slower time on his pro day. He didn’t work out here. Really, we didn’t get a lot of information on Jarvis at this session. With Le’Veon, we did. We did meet with him. He did work out. We followed up. We attended both of their pro days. We actually got more information from their pro days than we had gotten out of this process.”

On the relative value of nose tackles in today’s pass-happy NFL:
“It has changed over the years. It has become more passing, more sub-package defenses. I think our numbers were close to 60 percent sub-package defense last season, and that percentage has increased because of the change offensively. It doesn’t change the way we evaluate. In a 3-4 defense you’re still going to start with a nose tackle. You have to get into third down situations, and those second-and-longs, too. If you don’t have that player help you get to those extended downs then you’re going to have problems. Nose tackle will always be important to our defense.”

On the depth of talent at tight end in the upcoming draft:
“Tight end, it has been enhanced with the underclassmen that have joined. It’s a good group. It’s a nice option to have. Needs, again, we don’t use that word. We like Heath Miller. We like where he is. Getting Matt Spaeth back healthy last year, along with Heath progressing throughout the season was encouraging for us. It’s nice to have that option at that position. As for the college prospects here, some of them play attached and some play detached in the same scheme. You don’t mind that. They still have to be blockers, but if they show the receiving abilities as well, it just enhances their value.”

On whether the Steelers look for certain qualities in cornerbacks based on the team’s defensive scheme:
“I don’t think so. I don’t think cornerbacks in our scheme are as unique as maybe the outside linebackers would be. You’re looking for a guy who can cover and somebody who will tackle. I don’t think that’s unique to us. Whether it’s more zone coverage or more man coverage, it’s the old adage I learned from Coach Don Shula a long time ago: ‘When you’ve got red paint, paint your barn red.’ It’s a matter of the individual player.”

 

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