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Kevin Colbert: Steelers can't afford to miss in the draft

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The Steelers general manager sat down with Forbes to talk football and disclosed his draft strategy; not that it came as a surprise.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

For all the criticism he receives, Pittsburgh Steelers GM Kevin Colbert doesn't seem to have earned any of it.  The Steelers have had only one losing season since he's taken over as general manager, they've won two Super Bowls and Colbert has been responsible for drafting some of the premier talents in the NFL.

The Steelers are a notoriously conservative organization when it comes to free agents or blockbuster trades, opting instead to build success through the draft with home-grown talent.  Colbert has a very simple strategy when it comes to drafting players; intangibles.  Of course, ascertaining the intangibles of a prospect aren't anything that's testable, as they serve as a qualitative attribute which takes a special sort of observation to make sense of things.

In fact, judging the intangibles are the hardest part of Colbert's job, according to Jerry Barca of Forbes.

"You can time a 40 (yard dash) and you can measure a vertical jump," said Colbert.  "But to really measure someone's intelligence, character, loyalty, ability to get along, is a very difficult aspect of what we try to do."

Antonio Brown is seemingly the greatest example of examining intangibles, as the sixth-round pick has been to three Pro Bowls and is considered one of the best receivers in the league.  In a league emphasizing bigger, stronger, faster receivers, Brown excels despite never being the biggest, strongest or fastest guy on the field.  Brown, however, is a noted "workout warrior" and is known to outwork the competition; an attribute which doesn't show up on film or at the Combine.

Colbert isn't a fan of taking a chance on a player the team isn't totally sure about.  In Colbert's eyes, there's no such thing as a "wasted" pick.

"There's no way you go into it saying, 'We'll take a chance here and hope.' No. We're trying to do as much work as we can to make sure the picks we make have the best chance to succeed," said Colbert.

The Steelers were 11-5 last season, won the AFC North and fielded one of the best offensive rosters in team history; an offense in which every starter was a draft selection of the Steelers.  With Colbert at the helm, the present and future of the Steelers organization appears to be in very capable hands.