Yesterday, Kevin Colbert spent part of his media day giving an overview of the 2018 NFL Draft class. Standard stuff, the positions where it’s strongest, the positions where it’s weakest. Some of his comments came as a surprise. Counter to what many in the media thinks, Colbert said the outside linebacker group was strong while the inside linebackers were thin and lacked impact players.
Do those comments mean anything? Surprisingly – yes. Yes they do.
It’s fair to think this is just smoke and mirrors, Colbert telling a little white lie as to not tip his hand about the direction the Steelers are headed in. But if you look at what he’s said around draft season before, there’s a correlation between what he says and who Pittsburgh takes in the first round.
Back in 2015, Colbert singled out OLB and CB as the two strongest positions in the draft. Who were the first two picks? Outside linebacker Bud Dupree and cornerback Senquez Golson.
In 2016, the year they took CB Arite Burns, Colbert praised the cornerback class and though didn’t commit to selecting one in the first round (obviously), it was clear the Steelers were taking a hard look at it. They seemed dead-set on selecting a corner, planning to choose William Jackson III before the Cincinnati Bengals snatched him one pick ahead.
Last year, Colbert said the OLBs were a solid group.
“We think there is a good group (of outside linebackers),” he said a year ago.
Even when asked about free agency, Colbert has been unusually honest. Think back to 2014. Colbert said the team planned to be more aggressive and they were. The day after the new league year began, they signed Mike Mitchell to a hefty contract by the Steelers’ standards. And though it took a little longer for them to scoop up others, by the beginning of April, they had signed six more (Thomas, Moore, Moats, Blount, McCain, DHB).
So yeah, we gotta pay attention to what Colbert says. When he talks about the depth at the OLB position, it sounds possible, and historically speaking, likely, it’ll be addressed near the top of the draft. Couple that with him downplaying the ILB class, I put the odds of taking an EDGE rusher higher than anyone to replace Ryan Shazier. Adjust those mock drafts accordingly, people.
This is Colbert’s greatest trick of all. Tells you what they’re going to do without you ever even realizing it.
Nothing up his sleeve. Except a couple of Super Bowl rings.