The Pittsburgh Steelers always do their due diligence when researching a player they might want to draft and that includes looking at how he performs on the field in addition to how he acts off it. In the past, the organization has usually put a great deal of stock in whether or not a player was a team captain in addition to having a solid character.
Now that the team has moved on this offseason from several veteran players and team leaders such as safety Troy Polamalu, defensive end Brett Keisel and cornerback Ike Taylor, general manager Kevin Colbert was asked Monday during his pre-draft press conference if a certain personality component such as being a team captain becomes more important and appealing this year in the draft more than previous ones.
“I think you’re always looking for leadership and not so much more this year than in previous years,” said Colbert. “I don’t think you go into a draft, or free agency, or anything trying to replace the players that just left. If you’re talking about a Troy Polamalu, you’re probably wasting your time trying to replace him, because he was such a unique player. One that comes along once in a professional lifetime, in all honesty. So, I don’t think that you can go in saying, ‘We got to get another leader. We got to get this, or whatever.’ I just think you let it come to you.”
Colbert was also asked Monday if character is becoming more or less important over the years.
“I think it’s always been important for us,” said Colbert. “It probably changes. It’s a different world as we all know. You know social media makes it everybody’s business as to what a player’s transgressions might have been in college. Maybe in the past the public didn’t know about it and it was up to the teams to maybe manage the issues that you were dealing with. Now that doesn’t exist anymore. There’s so much information that’s available. I think that part of it has changed.
“The character is always going to be, always has been and always will be important. It’s maybe how you manage the public perception of that character. We’re going to do our due diligence and find out as much as we can about a person that’s had some type of issue. And again, I always try to say, you sort out what’s real and what’s rumored. If you figure out what’s real, then you find out whether you can deal with it and whether you want to deal with it. And that’s what we’ll try to do.”
The Steelers have had Nebraska edge-rusher Randy Gregory and Washington cornerback Marcus Peters in for pre-draft visits over the course of the last month and Colbert was indirectly asked if both are automatically eliminated because of their previous indiscretions, or perceived red flags, when it comes to their characters.
“No, again, any one situation you try to find out what the exact circumstance was,” said Colbert. “Why a guy was suspended. Why a guy tested positive. Why a guy got thrown off a team. You just cant take the public part of it and say this is it. There’s a story behind everything that goes on. Right, wrong, or indifferent, it’s our job to get to the root of the matter and figure out whether we want to take the chance or not.”
The Steelers have shown over the course of the last few years that they are indeed willing to take chances on players with red flags and you need not look any further than just a few years ago when they selected tackle Mike Adams in the second-round of the 2012 NFL Draft out of Ohio State. Adams, like Gregory, had tested positive for marijuana at the scouting combine. After initially removing Adams from their draft board, the Steelers added him back to it after the player requested to come to Pittsburgh for a pre-draft visit and he ultimately complied with several unknown stipulations the team placed upon him.