The 2014 season saw the Pittsburgh Steelers on the rise, finishing with an 11-5 record and a division title following two straight seasons of missing the playoffs with 8-8 records. They finished off the regular season with four straight victories, but suffered a disappointing Wildcard round loss against the Ravens without their star running back.
Nobody is saying that the Steelers, however, are a finished product. Not even the Super Bowl champion is a finished product after a season concludes, because every team undergoes a series of changes throughout the offseason via free agency, retirement, and the draft, in addition to a myriad of other factors.
Pittsburgh is certainly no different, of course, and they are expected to see a number of new faces in the starting lineup for the third straight season. But some priorities weigh more heavily than others, and one of the most immediate priorities it about to take place in Indianapolis. I am speaking about the fact-finding process that goes on during the Combine regarding players with red flags.
The Steelers have, of course, built a bit of a reputation for themselves as an organization that attempts to build their roster with a certain type of player that represents himself as well off the field as he does on the field.
There are and have always been exceptions to that, as is the case with any team, but that is part of the reputation that the Rooney family possesses with respect to how they choose to run their franchise, which goes hand in hand with the type of people that they employ to coach, scout, and manage the team.
The Steelers themselves have taken on some character concerns in recent years during the draft, and it hasn’t always exactly worked out in their favor. Upon the sympathetic words of former teammate Maurkice Pouncey, for example, they gave former Florida running back Chris Rainey a chance in the fifth round in 2012.
Rainey had a previous incident on his record in which he reportedly threatened a former girlfriend, or something similar to that effect. After his rookie season, he found himself in another domestic dispute type of situation, and the Steelers promptly released him.
That same year, the team drafted Mike Adams in the second round, who had issues at Ohio State and failed his drug test at the Combine. He reached out specifically to the Steelers during the draft process, however, and they gave him the benefit of the doubt. After his rookie season, he was involved in a late-night incident in which he ended up getting stabbed.
The Steelers have been gun-shy in the past about drafting players with character concerns, and I don’t suspect that they have been made any less so through their own recent experiences. However, with some of the talent available on the board, there’s no doubt that the team will be very interested to speak to players such as cornerback Marcus Peters, who is regarded as among the best at his position in the draft.