- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Pittsburgh Steelers have changed one small part of their draft process a year after having off-the-field issues with two picks, nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu and running back Chris Rainey. The Steelers have stepped up their interaction with prospects' families as part of their pre-draft evaluation.
In addressing how the team assesses character, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said the process has remained the same, starting with reports they get from colleges and then conducting interviews, whether it's at the NFL scouting combine or pre-draft visits, as well as background checks. The one change is speaking to the people closest to the prospect.
"Coach [Mike] Tomlin and I did a lot of follow-up work this past spring when we visited the pro days. We actually tried to be a little more proactive in trying to meet families," Colbert said. "It is something that Coach Tomlin started three years ago. After we draft players, we start to bring their families in to get to know the kids that we drafted. Sometimes you get the opportunity at a pro day and sometimes you don’t, depending on where the kid’s family lives. We did try to make a conscious effort to extend the program Coach Tomlin started three years ago."
The Steelers should be more careful this year in taking risks on draft picks after two of their first five selections in 2012 got into legal trouble. Ta'amu, a fourth-round pick, was sentenced to 18 months of probation earlier this month after he pled guilty to reckless endangerment, resisting arrest and drunken driving stemming from a police chase last fall. Pittsburgh suspended him for two games and waived him but re-signed Ta'amu by the end of the season.
Rainey, a fifth-round pick, was released by the Steelers in January hours after he was arrested for a second time on a domestic violence incident. He hasn't been signed by another team and remains a free agent.
Asked about the idea of visiting families, Tomlin said: "I just think it helps us develop a more complete picture about who and what a player is, and maybe more importantly, what he is capable of being. I think the more you look at where they come from and who they come from, it helps you paint that well-rounded picture."