Steelers GM on Hightower: 'It didn't work'

Steelers GM on Hightower: 'It didn't work'

Speaking to reporters at the NFL owners meetings in Arizona, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert touched briefly on the team’s unsuccessful attempt to lure Dont’a Hightower away from New England in free agency. 

Hightower returned to the Patriots this month on a four-year, $43.5 million deal with $19 million guaranteed. He was also courted by the Jets and Steelers, among others, with his offer from the Jets reported to be the biggest before they reportedly pulled it due to physical concerns. 

The Steelers also reportedly offered more money than the Patriots, with Jason La Canfora reporting that Pittsburgh offered more than $9 million annually. Hightower’s deal with the Pats pays him $8.7 million per year. 

“We made an attempt [with Hightower], it didn’t work,” Colbert told reporters. “We’re fine. We move on. Vince Williams, we were very confident in Vince. That’s why we signed him to the extension last year. So that if we got to this point and Lawrence had left us, and we didn’t sign anybody from the outside, Vince was certainly capable of stepping up and being the next guy.”

Hightower is entering his sixth season with the Patriots, who selected him with the 25th overall pick in the 2012 draft. 

Report: Steelers' offer for Dont'a Hightower was bigger than Patriots'

Report: Steelers' offer for Dont'a Hightower was bigger than Patriots'

Dont'a Hightower left money on the table in New York and in Pittsburgh, and instead took a smaller deal to return the New England Patriots, according to CBSSports' Jason La Canfora.

The Jets' offer was previously reported to be $12 million per year, including incentives. La Canfora reiterated that report. But he also detailed Pittsburgh's offer, as the Steelers also outbid the Patriots with over $9 million per year.

Instead, Hightower settled for $8.7 million per season with New England, and will play under Bill Belichick in a Patriots jersey for the sixth season in 2017.

Hightower traveled a great deal during free agency, and ended up garnering interest from the Steelers, Jets, Tennessee Titans and Miami Dolphins.

The 27-year-old linebacker finished the 2016 season with 65 tackles tackles, 2.5 sacks, two pass deflections and one forced fumble. He also had a game-changing strip sack on Matt Ryan in Super Bowl LI that shifted the momentum of game.

Patriots reportedly have private workout scheduled with speedy Cincinnati LB

Patriots reportedly have private workout scheduled with speedy Cincinnati LB

Whenever we mention in this space that the Patriots are getting a closer look at a college player entering the draft -- and we'll do that quite a bit between now and the end of April -- it's important to note that every year the Patriots take closer looks at a lot of players.

Whether it's at one of the postseason All-Star bowl games, or at the NFL Scouting Combine, or at pro days or private workouts, the Patriots are constantly doing their due diligence on players they're interested in and players who have questions that need answering.

Many of the players they study up on will be long gone by the time Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio are on the clock to make a selection, but they do it anyway because you never know. 

That said, we'll still provide you with what we hear on the whereabouts of Patriots coaches and scouts as they do their homework on prospects because it may potentially provide a window into their thought processes as they approach the draft.

It's not a totally trivial exercise. 

For example, two years ago, Belichick ran Georgia center David Andrews through drills in Athens. He wasn't drafted, but that initial interest helped lead Andrews to being signed as an undrafted rookie. After one full season in the program, he won the starting job and became the signal-caller on a Super Bowl-winning offensive line.

On Tuesday, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reported that the Patriots had a private workout scheduled with Cincinnati linebacker Eric Wilson -- another potential late-round selection with good college production and some interesting athletic traits.

Wilson was named to the American Athletic Conference's first team last season after leading the AAC in tackles and posting his second-consecutive 100-tackle season for the Bearcats. Wilson, who was not invited to the combine, was listed at 6-foot-2, 225 pounds last year at Cincinnati.

The Patriots showed some interest in another more highly-touted athletic linebacker earlier in the pre-draft process when Belichick watched film with Vanderbilt's Zach Cunningham and then ran him through drills at his pro day

Though the Patriots were able to re-sign linebacker and captain Dont'a Hightower last week, they could certainly still be looking for help at that position. Others under contract at that spot for the Patriots include Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts and Shea McClellin.