|ESPN.com: NFL||[Print without images]|
PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers have plenty of needs, especially on defense, and this is shaping up as the kind of draft in which to fill them.
"It's as deep across the board as any draft I've seen in 30 years," general manager Kevin Colbert said.
A record number of underclassmen has greatly enhanced the talent level in the 2014 draft. But Colbert cautioned that the draft could have a boom or bust quality to it since 98 underclassmen are among those who are eligible to be selected in early May.
"Though it's a talented group it also have a bigger chance of failing because you're going to get a lot of kids that aren't physically or emotionally ready for this with the underclassmen," Colbert said Wednesday.
The Steelers need help at a number of positions, and Colbert acknowledged they aren't as deep as he would like at cornerback or safety, positions that have been linked to the team's first-round pick.
One position the Steelers are unlikely to address is quarterback, even though Colbert said the organization is well aware that Ben Roethlisberger "doesn't have 10 years left."
Colbert declined to say whether he has talked with Ryan Tollner, Roethlisberger's agent, about a contract extension. Team president Art Rooney II said last month that the organization plans to extend Roethlisberger at some point and that the plan is for Roethlisberger to retire as a Steeler.
Roethlisberger, who played every snap last season, has two years left on the eight-year, $102 million contract he signed in 2008. The Steelers have typically signed quarterbacks who have two years left on their contracts to new deals.
"We're very fortunate to have a franchise quarterback because the majority of teams in this league can't say that," Colbert said. "We have one and there's nobody we'd rather have than Ben and that's a big part of where we are as an organization.
"Does he have two, three, five [years left]? I don't know. Hopefully he stays healthy and we get the maximum amount of years out of him."
Colbert strongly hinted that the Steelers won't draft a developmental quarterback because they are happy with Bruce Gradkowski, Roethlisberger's backup, as well as Landry Jones, a fourth-round pick last year.
Colbert said the Steelers have had preliminary discussions with representatives of some of their pending free agents, a group that includes outside linebacker Jason Worilds and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders.
He does not anticipate the Steelers tagging one of their free agents and maintaining some control over his rights even after free agency starts March 11.
"At this stage I would say that would be doubtful," Colbert said.