- Associated Press - Monday, April 25, 2011

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Steelers coach Mike Tomlin couldn’t help but laugh when asked if picking at No. 31 is the worst possible scenario for the NFL Draft.

After all, the 31st pick is the penultimate selection of every round _ but having the only one lower signifies your team is the Super Bowl champion.

Still, Tomlin pointed out at least one draft position he finds even worse.

“No. 1 is,” he said, “as far as I’m concerned.”


Tomlin and director of football operations Kevin Colbert discussed the Steelers’ draft plans during a news conference Monday, revealing that the team whittled its initial list of roughly 1,000 prospects down to about 160.

The reigning AFC champions say they are approaching the uncertainty created surrounding the lockout by assuming that the roster contains only players who are under contract.

“We’re going to pick based on our team as it currently stands,” Colbert said. “I don’t know how it currently stands because there’s different possibilities that exist. But when the lockout began this is our team as we know it, and we’re going to draft accordingly.”

If that’s the case, the Steelers will be looking for cornerbacks, as their top player at the position, Ike Taylor, is a free agent, as is No. 3 corner, William Gay.

The position already was considered a weakness on an otherwise strong defense, and the other cornerback who played the most last season, Bryant McFadden, is coming off an inconsistent year punctuated by a poor performance in the Super Bowl loss to Green Bay.

Colbert characterized this year’s draft class as “OK” in terms of its depth of cornerbacks. He also said the team wouldn’t box itself in to drafting based on position alone.

“We always balance the talent vs. the need, and if two or more players are close, we always take the player of need if it’s close,” Colbert said. “But what we won’t do is reach for a specific position. That’s where the biggest mistakes have been made and I think will continue to be made.”

Colbert and Tomlin said they interviewed about 90 players one-on-one, and had the maximum 30 brought in for post-combine visits _ not counting seven from the University of Pittsburgh, which shares a practice facility with the Steelers.

The organization narrowed its draft pool list to 200, then eliminated about 40 from there based on character, injury or lack of fit into the team’s scheme.

“When we really break it down, we probably see about 20 special players that are going to be, we think, unusual players in the league,” Colbert said. “But I think we can get a make-it type player _ a player that can make our roster and help contribute _ through the sixth round.

“That’s if these numbers come off clean, which they never do. So, realistically, we’re going to be looking at guys who can help us throughout all seven rounds, and hopefully we pick the right ones.”

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