None of you reading this post probably expect the Pittsburgh Steelers to draft a quarterback this year and especially not in the first-round. While that might ultimately wind up being the case come this weekend, on Monday, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert refused to rule out any position this year as possibly being the team’s first-round selection and especially not the quarterback position.
“We haven’t eliminated any position this year,” Colbert said during Monday’s pre-draft press conference when asked if he’s ruled out possibly drafting a quarterback in the first-round this year. “Look, Ben’s [Ben Roethlisberger] a Hall of Fame quarterback. We’re very lucky to have him and you know, he has stated his intention to play for at least a few more years and that’s awesome. But as I said when we opened this, our job is not only to win a championship in 2018, it’s to secure this franchise’s ability to do it in the future. And you have to have a great player at the quarterback position, in our eyes, to have the best chance to win a championship. And fortunately we got one that’s still a very highly productive, highly effective quarterback, so part of our job is to surround him with the best talent as well. So we have to weigh that in and we will weigh that in throughout, but we haven’t eliminated any position for this draft whatsoever.”
Even though the Steelers selected quarterback Joshua Dobbs in the fourth-round of last year’s draft, Colbert has hinted for several months now that he might be open to drafting yet another quarterback this year and even in the first few rounds. If that’s not enough, both Colbert and Tomlin attended the pro days of both Mason Rudolph of Oklahoma State and Lamar Jackson of Louisville during the month of March. Both Rudolph and Jackson round out what is believed to potentially be one of the best quarterback classes we’ve seen since maybe 2004, the year Ben Roethlisberger was drafted.
As I wrote a few weeks ago, the Steelers drafted Roethlisberger in 2004 and that was just one year after they had selected Brian St. Pierre in the fifth-round of the 2003 NFL Draft. At the urging of the late Dan Rooney, the Steelers decided to not bypass Roethlisberger in favor of offensive lineman Shawn Andrews even though at the time they had three quarterbacks in Tommy Maddox, Charlie Batch and St. Pierre all under contract for the 2004 season.
Along those same lines of not ruling out any positions ahead of this year’s draft, Colbert also ruled out there being any pressure to get players drafted in the first few rounds on the field and contributing right away during their rookie seasons.
“That’s really relative to the team that you have,” Colbert said. “We never predict when a kid can play until we get him in here and see him working with our team in the spring and then in training camp. Sometimes they get opportunities quicker than others. You know, Troy Polamalu’s probably a Hall of Fame safety that didn’t play as a rookie. Ben played because of Tommy Maddox’s injury. We certainly didn’t plan on him playing as early as he did. So it varies by player and you know, if they play, it’s really more relative to the opportunities that’s there and how ready they prepare themselves for that opportunity.”
While Colbert did state a few times on Monday that the organization is certainly concentrating on winning a a championship in 2018, he’s also stated he’s not afraid to plan for future years when it comes to the draft.
“But we want to be able to compete for a championship every year,” Colbert said. “2018 is most important, but we’ll never lose focus of 2019 and beyond in trying to be champions next year.”
As usual, Colbert was asked during his pre-draft press conference to differentiate between drafting the best player available versus drafting for need.
“It’s always going to be a relative – best athlete available versus the so-called need,” Colbert explained. “Again, we don’t like to use the word need, we use the word want, but we recognize that in any given situation, any given year, there will be players that will have a better chance of contributing earlier than others. And if those players are equally graded, or graded closely, sure you’ll gravitate toward those. But again, if you reach to take a player that might play quicker, even though he’s not as good of quality as the one you’re passing up, you’ll make a huge mistake that some day you’ll regret.”
We dont have long to wait until we find out if the Steelers will draft another quarterback this year and if that somehow winds up happening, none of us will be able to say that Colbert didn’t let us know it might ultimately happen.