INDIANAPOLIS — Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert stressed Thursday that signing OLB LaMarr Woodley to a long-term extension would be a priority for the club, moving forward. Colbert also talked about the continuing challenge to find quality talent to fit defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau’s 3-4 scheme.
The Steelers recently placed the franchise tag on the 26-year-old Woodley, who quickly signed the tender that will pay him more than $10 million in 2011, but they would still like to lock up one of the league's top young pass rushers for many years beyond that.
“Absolutely (the priority is to get a long-term deal done),” Colbert said of the 26-year-old Woodley, who has 50 sacks in 67 career games (including 11 sacks in seven playoff games). “And both LaMarr and his agent are aware of that.”
Colbert also touched on the strength of this year’s OLB class, but noted that because of the difficult transition between a college’s system and the Steelers' system, not every ‘backer is a good fit.
“Outside linebacker group is good, there’s more available to us than there has been in years past,” Colbert said. “Part of this evaluation will be the linebacker-type drills that some of the defensive linemen will have to go through, and then we’ll see if we think these guys can make the conversion, but I think it’s a pretty good group.”
With more NFL teams now employing the 3-4 scheme, that has placed these prospects in higher demand. However, Colbert also sees an increase in supply at the college ranks.
“I think there’s more teams in the NFL that are looking for the 3-4 talent, but there’s changes going on in the college game as well,” Colbert said. “With the spread offenses, you’re getting more 3-5-3 defenses, which is a little more similar to what we run, so there are actually some defenses in colleges that are changing that maybe supplement the extra demand in the NFL.”
Colbert, though, cautioned against selecting players based solely on their college system.
“Sure, if we could line everybody up in a standard NFL offense and defense in college, that would be great, but that’s never going to happen,” Colbert said. “You have to get the information you have on (the player) at hand, and don’t ignore the information or fabricate it to suit your needs, because once you do that, you’re going to make a drastic mistake.”