I'm at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, where Kevin Colbert just made a statement and then took questions from the media.
On locking up Hampton: "It was really important to our organization to have a player of Casey's caliber signed for what we hope is the rest of his career. Casey's been a big part of our success and we still think he has a lot of football left in him, plus he's really been one of our true leaders. To kick off this free agency period by getting him locked up means a lot to the organization."
On whether Pittsburgh will continue negotiating with Reed: "Absolutely. We've been in contact with Jeff -- he's aware of the situation. His agent Don Henderson is aware of the situation. And our goal is to lock him up long term, and have him finish his career with the Steelers. Same as with Casey and his agents Brian Overstreet and Tyron Collins, as long as the player and the agents are willing and want to stay with the team, and the team wants to, you're going to get a deal done. And we think it's the same thing with Jeff. We want to keep him as long as we can."
On the difficulty of finding guys for the 3-4, which isn't widely played in college: "You're looking for the body type, the speed the athleticism, the mindset -- when you take a defensive end and try to convert him to a linebacker, it's really a guess because you haven't seen him do a lot of what he's going to be asked to do. The Combine will be important as the first step in that evaluation in whether he's going to be able to make that transition. It will continue through the spring with individual workouts at the school, plus some mental questioning that we'll have to do just to see their full awareness of what goes on behind them when they're rushing the passer."
On the emergence of shorter OLBs: "I think that has changed with the growth of the tackles. When the tackles get taller they have a little more trouble with the Elvis Dumervils and James Harrisons who aren't quite 6-3, because they're great leverage players. I don't think you want to get locked into a prototypical size; we all want that, but you can't shut out a good player just because he might not be 6-3."
On whether that impacts how offensive linemen are evaluated: "It does because, again, the taller [tackles] are having trouble with the shorter, powerful guys. It's just a matter of leverage. That's not to say that they can't, it's just that sometimes the shorter, 6-3 guys with long arms have more success. Willie Colon, our starting right tackle, is only 6-3, so that might be an advantage against some of those smaller guys."
On the Combine now versus the past: "I think the value has remained the same throughout the growth of the thing. What has changed has been the exposure, obviously, and that's good for the league, but it's also good for the players. The players become very competitive in this environment. Quite honestly, I was opposed when we brought the network in, but it's been great for the Combine and the competition the players like to work under in this setting."
On the big passing numbers across the league and any added importance of having great DBs: "I don't think you can ever minimize the importance of having a great corner or a great safety. Fortunately, we have a great safety in Troy Polomalu. Yes, the league has changed, it has become more of a passing league, but realistically, it's still all going to start up front, because if you have a great pass rush, you might be able to get by with a lesser defensive back. So I don't' want to minimize the importance of any part of the defense in trying to combat the different offensive philosophies."
On the impact of the spread on finding bigger tight ends: "There are many less tight ends and fullback-types because of the emphasis of the college -- and really the high school -- games on the spread offense. You don't really see that type of athlete. What you are seeing is bigger receivers -- guys that may have in the past grown into being tight ends. Now you're seeing 6-3, 220-pound receivers that in the past may have been moved inside but now are staying outside in the spread."