Kevin Colbert likes the depth at outside linebacker in this year's NFL Draft, something that will surely come into play at some point this weekend.
In an interview with Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Colbert stated this year's class of outside linebackers is one of the better classes in quite some time.
"It’s an exceptional group with a lot of impact guys," Colbert said in the interview. "It’s an unusual year. It’s just better than it has been. I’m talking about some real impact-type players. That’s encouraging."
There are several outside linebackers that are expected to be drafted in the first two rounds of the draft that includes Florida's Dante Fowler Jr., Clemson's Vic Beasley (pictured), Missouri's Shane Ray, Nebraska's Randy Gregory, Virginia's Eli Harold, UCLA's Eric Kendricks, and Mississippi's Benardrick McKinney. Washington's Shaq Thompson, who played a little of everything during his college career that included linebacker, safety and running back, is slated to be drafted somewhere in the first three rounds.
Realistically, Fowler Jr. and Beasley will be off the board when the Steelers are on the clock Thursday night. Ray, who was once slated to be a top-10 pick, might be there when the Steelers pick due to his possession of marijuana citation Monday and his lingering toe injury suffered in last year's Florida Citrus Bowl. Ditto for Gregory, who tested positive for marijuana prior to the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine. Harold, who played defensive end at Virginia but is looking to switch to outside linebacker in the NFL, visited the Steelers last month and is projected to be a late first/early second round selection.
Last season, Colbert looked to the fourth round to fulfill Ben Roethlisberger's wish for Pittsburgh to draft a tall receiver, selecting Martavis Bryant out of Clemson instead of Bryant's more celebrated college teammate, Sammy Watkins, in the first round. The move more than worked out for Big Ben and the Steelers, with Bryant catching eight touchdowns last season while averaging over 21 yards a catch. Colbert may decide to take a similar approach this season when drafting an outside linebacker, selecting a later-round prospect and spending earlier picks filling other needs. Utah's Nate Orchard, a projected second or third round pick, could be Colbert's choice as he decides to wait a round or two to take an outside linebacker. Like Harold, Orchard - who also visited the Steelers this past month - played defensive end in college but will look to suit up at outside linebacker at the next level.
Regardless of who and when the Steelers draft an outside linebacker in this year's draft, the fact that Kevin Colbert is this high on this class of outside linebackers is a very good thing. It means that the Steelers have a good chance at upgrading at a crucial position for a defense looking to reclaim its place as one of the best units in the NFL.