Personnel File – Pittsburgh Steelers

Personnel leader – General manager Kevin Colbert just received that title in 2011 after operating for 11 years as the de facto general manager but with the title director of football operations. Colbert works closely with head coach Mike Tomlin, who has a say in what happens with the roster. Colbert has been with the Steelers for 12 seasons now and has been in an NFL personnel position since 1985; that’s 27 years of scouting and personnel experience. Tomlin is in his fifth season as head coach and he’s been in the NFL coaching for the last 12 seasons.

Key aides – College scouting coordinator Ron Hughes (26 years NFL experience), Pro Scouting Coordinator Brandon Hunt (5 years).

Personnel department – One of the smallest departments in the league in number of people, with 11 scouts including the top three leaders. That group of scouts includes Bill Nunn, a veteran of 44 years in scouting for the Steelers, Hall of Fame DT Joe Greene and Dan Rooney Jr., the second son of current Ambassador to Ireland Dan Rooney. The coaching staff is used a great deal in the evaluation process, particularly coordinators Bruce Arians (offense) and Dick LeBeau (defense).

Personnel philosophy – Draft, draft, draft, and then some more draft.

From the time that free agency began in 1993, the Steelers have never been major participants in signing other team’s players. They have been willing to allow a lot of starters to walk away in free agency, because their roster was prepared with a replacement acquired through the draft.


Big money contracts – QB Ben Roethlisberger, 8 years, $102 million; LB LaMarr Woodley, 6 years, $61.5 million; LB James Harrison, 6 years, $51.2 million; LB Lawrence Timmons, 6 years, $50 million; SS Troy Polamalu, 4 years, $36.5 million; TE Heath Miller, 6 years, $35.3 million.

Soon to be available/starters & key performers without 2012 contracts – QBs Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon, WR Mike Wallace (restricted fa), WR Jerricho Cotchery.

ROSTER THIS WEEK (starters in bold)

Draft choices (33)

1st-round (9) – DE Cameron Heyward (2011), C Maurkice Pouncey (2010), DE Ziggy Hood (2009), RB Rashard Mendenhall (2008), LB Lawrence Timmons (2007), TE Heath Miller (2005), QB Ben Roethlisberger (2004), SS Troy Polamalu (2003), NT Casey Hampton (2001).

2nd-round (4) – RT Marcus Gilbert (2011), OLB Jason Worilds (2010), OLB LaMarr Woodley (2007), CB Bryan McFadden (2005)*.

3rd-round (8) – CB Curtis Brown (2011), WR Emmanuel Sanders (2010), WR Mike Wallace (2009), G Doug Legursky (2009), CB Keenan Lewis (2009), G Trai Essex (2005), LT Max Starks (2004), WR Hines Ward (1998).

4th-round (2) – CB Cortez Allen (2011), CB Ike Taylor (2003)

5th-round (4) – OLB Chris Carter (2011), LB Stevenson Sylvester (2010), QB Dennis Dixon (2008), CB William Gay (2007).

6th-round (4) – RB Jonathan Dwyer (2010), WR Antonio Brown (2010), FS Ryan Mundy (2008), G Chris Kemoeatu (2005).

7th-round (2) – FB/TE David Johnson (2009), DE Brett Keisel (2002).

Draft overview – Check the list above and several things stand out. No. 1, the Steelers seldom make first round mistakes. From the last nine drafts, they are missing only 2006 first-rounder WR Santonio Holmes, who wore out his welcome with off-field problems. No. 2, they have a starter from every round of the draft. That includes eight starters from the third round and down. No. 3, that string of productive first round picks, their average drafting position was No. 21, with none higher than 11th (that was QB Ben Roethlisberger). They identify good players, they find them no matter the year or their position, and they are good round one through round seven.

*-McFadden was drafted by the Steelers, left in free agency for Arizona and was reacquired in a trade in 2010.

Unrestricted free agents (3)

RB Mewelde Moore (2008), FS Ryan Clark (2006), ILB James Farrior (2002).

College free agents (8)

P Jeremy Kapinos (2011), TE Weslye Saunders (2011), RG Ramon Foster (2009), NT Steve McLendon (2009), RB Isaac Redman (2009), LS Greg Warren (2005), LB James Harrison (2004), NT Chris Hoke (2001).

Street free agents (9)

WR Jerricho Cotchery (2011), OL Jamon Meredith (2011), DE Al Woods (2011), WR Arnaz Battle (2010), LB Larry Foote (2010), OT Jonathan Scott (2010), K Shaun Suisham (2010), SS Will Allen (2010), QB Charlie Batch (2002).

Free-agent overview – Big-money free agents are not something the Steelers have ever spent much time on. They’ve signed a few during the years, but they generally fall in the same category as Clark and Farrior, who are starters on the defense and have been. Finding Harrison as a college free agent, who they cut and later brought back and developed into the NFL’s defensive player of the year speaks to the organization’s ability to see talent, acquire talent and then develop that talent. Only four of their 22 starters right now are from free agency. That’s one of the lowest numbers you can find on any NFL team.

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