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Free Agency Set Up Steelers to Truly Take Best Player Available in Draft



Steelers Draft Kevin Colbert

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers spent first part of the 2022 offseason filling holes in their lineup through free agency, and head coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert said that work has set the team up to take a player at any position in the 2022 NFL Draft.

The Steelers officially announced on Monday the re-signing of strong safety Terrell Edmunds to a one-year contract. The team also retained potential free agent starters right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor and cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, while bringing in quarterback Mitch Trubisky, cornerback Levi Wallace, linebacker Myles Jack and interior offensive linemen Mason Cole and James Daniels.

That’s left the team with few large vacancies as it enters the draft.

“Our goal always is to address all needs, so that we can kind of let the field come to us in the draft,” Tomlin said Monday. “We feel comfortable that we have quality, capable guys at each and every position. That’s what we desire. That way we can go into the draft and not feel undue pressure in terms of reaching positionally, et cetera. We had a very productive free agency period, excited about the guys that we were able to acquire … We think that free agency has really set us up nicely to have a good draft.”

The Steelers have always taken a best player available approach to the draft under Colbert and Tomlin, but there is an obvious concession or need or lack thereof. The team wasn’t going to draft a first-round quarterback with Ben Roethlisberger on the roster. Likewise, free safety and running back seem like unlikely targets for pick No. 20 this year.

But the Steelers will rank all the players, and only among closely-ranked option will Colbert let the team’s needs shape the decision-making process.

“If two players are close, if you think you have strength at one position and not another, and the players are close, you’re obviously going to take that player where your strength isn’t as good,” Colbert said.

But he cautioned against reaching for a specific need. The Steelers don’t have a ton of those this year, with slot wide receiver the biggest question mark entering draft week.

“You’ll make a huge mistake if you reach down low in your development and on your boards if you reach for a player that’s not quite as good,” Colbert said. “What looks like a position of need at a certain time can change instantly. We have to recognize that and just try take the best players available if it’s not close.”

That’s not a new process, but it is nice to have the team’s needs largely met as the draft approaches. Unlike last year, when the Steelers were uncertain about who would be their starters at inside linebacker, outside cornerback, tackle, center and running back entering the selection, this year’s team seems largely set thanks to an active and productive free agency period.

“We always have approached it the same way,” Colbert said. “When free agency began, that created a situation where you’re trying to fill in certain holes through that period. We thought we did some of that.”

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